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Technology in kids’ bedrooms lead to poorer health, study suggests

Many children go to bed with one or more screens in their bedrooms, and doing so is damaging their well-being, according to a new study from the University of Alberta.

"If you want your kids to sleep better and live a healthier lifestyle, get the technology out of the bedroom," Paul Veugelers, a professor in the school of public health and co-author of the study, said in a release.

Researchers examined data from a survey of nearly 3,400 Grade 5 students in Alberta that detailed their evening sleep habits and access to screens. Half of the kids had a television, DVD player or video game console in their bedroom. Just over one-fifth – 21 per cent – had a computer, while 17 per cent had a cellphone. All three types of screens were found in the bedrooms of 5 per cent of kids.

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The more screens kids have at bed time, the worse it is for their health, the research suggests. Access to one gizmo made it 1.47 times more likely for a kid to be overweight compared with a child with no tech. Kids with three devices were 2.57 times more likely to be overweight.

Kids who stay up watching television on the sly for a little while may not seem to be doing anything all that harmful, but that's not true, according to the study, which found that just one extra hour of sleep reduced the chances of being overweight by 28 per cent and cut the odds of being obese by 30 per cent.

The more sleep kids get, the more likely they are to engage in more physical activity – perhaps because they're not completely zonked come recess – and make better choices of what to eat, according to the study, published in the journal Pediatric Obesity.

A study published earlier this month in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found a link between poor sleep in adolescents and increased body mass index, high levels of cholesterol and hypertension.

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About the Author

Dave McGinn writes about fitness trends for the Life section and also reports for Globe Arts. Prior to joining the Globe, he was a freelance journalist, covering topics from trying to eat Michael Phelps' diet to why the Joker is the best villain in comics history. He's working on improving his 10k time. More

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