The almost universal access to smartphones and the amount of time spent using these devices by children has transformed society significantly, with negative effects on physical health. Indeed, smartphones have become so ubiquitous in the contemporary society that most children use them for studying and entertainment at any time of the day or night (Rosen et al., 2014). In addition, screen time for children is difficult to control because smartphones can be used in bed with the lights out. Of all technological innovations introduced in the 21st century, the smartphone is perhaps the most impactful and it has affected lives in profound ways. However, in spite of all the positive and transformative influences of smartphones on society, there have been some negative impacts especially for children. Although, it is not possible to fully appreciate the effects and consequences of smartphones on children and society for a while to come, there is little doubt that increased screen time will become a public health issue (Rosen et al., 2014). My purpose today is to inform you of the negative effects smartphones cause on the physical activity of young children.

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The first reason to believe that smartphone use causes negative effects on the physical activity of young children is that it reduces their cardio-respiratory fitness. In this case, young children who use their smartphones on a consistent basis, especially during the day when they would normally be undertaking activities, are more likely to suffer from poor health (Raustorp et al., 2015). In addition, when young children use these smartphones during the night, this interferes with their circadian rhythm and sleeping ability. In turn, the young children may be deprived of sleep, which is vital in maintaining the young child’s normal function. Short-term loss of sleep is also associated with reduced physical activity since the young child is physically exhausted, and cannot get any rest during the night, which they compensate for during the day as they rest. Further, during the day when sleep derived children are physically inactive, they are highly likely to use their smartphones, which will cause further sedentary behavior (Raustorp et al., 2015). More importantly, since this is the age when children are forming their long-term health behaviors and habits, then excessive smartphone use could have long-term negative effects on physical activity.

The second reason to believe that increased smartphone use causes negative effects on the physical activity of young children is that they are more likely to become overweight or obese. In this case, young children who spend more time on their smartphones are highly likely to snack more than other young children taking part in more physically demanding activities (Bort-Roig et al., 2014). Indeed, young children who use their smartphones for more than five hours every day are more likely to engage in activities or behaviors, which cause overweight and obesity. Increased screen-time by young children tends to increase the likelihood that they will consume more sugar-sweetened beverages, while at the same time engaging in less physical activity. Such behavior, in turn, will result in a significant increase in the risk of becoming overweight or obese in comparison to children who do not use smartphones (Bort-Roig et al., 2014). Unfortunately, there is a high likelihood that the impact of smartphone screen-time on obesity is more significant than the impact of time spent watching TV on obesity.

In conclusion, the introduction of smartphones has been the most transformative innovation of the 21st century. However, a lack of limits on the time young children spend on smartphones may portend significant negative impacts on their physical health. Not only will smartphone use lead to reduced physical activity and disrupt sleep patterns, it may also result in more snacking and subsequent obesity.

  • Bort-Roig, J., Gilson, N. D., Puig-Ribera, A., Contreras, R. S., & Trost, S. G. (2014). Measuring and influencing physical activity with smartphone technology: a systematic review. Sports Medicine, 44(5), 671-686
  • Raustorp, A., Pagels, P., Fröberg, A., & Boldemann, C. (2015). Physical activity decreased by a quarter in the 11‐to 12‐year‐old Swedish boys between 2000 and 2013 but was stable in girls: a smartphone effect?. Acta Paediatrica, 104(8), 808-814
  • Rosen, L. D., Lim, A. F., Felt, J., Carrier, L. M., Cheever, N. A., Lara-Ruiz, J. M., … & Rokkum, J. (2014). Media and technology use predicts ill-being among children, preteens and teenagers independent of the negative health impacts of exercise and eating habits. Computers in human behavior, 35, 364-375