Relationship Between Media Use and Teenage Obesity

Does the exposure and length of time spend on media/smart technology cause obesity in teenagers?

Topic Justification Paragraph


My topic is about the relationship between media usages, such as phones and computer that can access social media, and obesity. I chose this topic because when I was growing up, the technological advancements proliferated fast. I was exposed to having a family laptop and using all day due to my interest in online interactions such as chatting with friends or browsing online website just to waste time. In the past, a computer was the size of an entire room; however, the capabilities of that computer can now be mild compared to the ability of a smartphone. While I was growing up in my teenage years, I put on more weight. I didn’t do as much exercise, and I was unsure if it was the environmental change, I had moved to another country or my usage of technology. Furthermore, obesity and overweight rates have increased. This may be due to the increase in popularity of social media and online competitive video games. I have a great interest in online video games; however, I can balance my time with education, health, and leisure. Along with the rise of video games, more people voice/video chat online rather than in person, leading to less effort spent outside, and more time spent in the space of their homes. This topic is important because game developers are creating new games that can be easily played worldwide. For example, the free game “Fortnite” is the most popular game right now. The main population is from children and teenagers playing this video game.

The advancements of technology have increased so much that individuals in society are becoming dependent upon it. Smartphones, laptops, televisions, and many more devices have consumed hours upon hours of an individual’s time spent in a single day. In addition, processed foods that have been mass produced, with the aid of technology, have been identified to be the lead cause of obesity. This sparks an interest in whether the consumption of processed foods is the main factor or exposure and imbalanced usage of technology. Obesity rates have been increasing, and so has the technology. Thus, a correlation can be identified, however, may not interest many people.

This topic is important because health in society is viewed as an essential aspect to have in society. Being healthy is not just not being sick, however, living happily, while keeping an individual’s body stable and long-lasting. Many individuals do not know that obesity has one of the highest rates of death, and when an individual is asked on what has killed more people, sharks or obesity, individuals often choose sharks.

Continuing, the topic on whether over-usage of media and technology may cause obesity is in a conflicting manner because there is limited experimental research done on such topic. There are many conflicting perspectives on this issue because the advancements of technology and obesity have both increased significantly in the past decades. On one side, people say that the easy access to food and laziness of individuals has led to the increase of obesity rates; however, other view the rise in obesity rates to be caused from excessive use of social media and video games on phones and computers.

For the first perspective, the general understanding that causes obesity is laziness, the inactivity. Social media applications or video games have taken up a large sum of time in a teenager’s day. The activities that teenagers do are completely unbalanced in the sense that their time on their phones or computers is the most significant time spent during their leisure time. To put it into perspective, teenagers use their phones practically anywhere they find the chance to. This can be often seen in restaurants, sidewalks, waiting in a line, and more. This behavior changes how the human body behaves too. The body will adapt to the environment of a lacking in exercise or dedication to exercise and produce excess body fat because the body is receiving more food than needed. Generally speaking, teenagers spend around 3-5 hours each day on their phones and computers in their leisure time. The top priority of spending 3-5 hours a day on their phone, computer, or television has led to a US Department of Health to be involved with the interactions of society. They set a regulation that reduced the limit of television watching hours. In addition, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has suggested a maximum of 2 hours of video games or television per day.


Furthermore, the influence of social media has a significant effect on the perspectives of teenagers. Teenagers are easily influenced and often look for a role model to look up to. This mostly may come from characters from movies or videos games. Advertisements also play a significant role, and there is constant exposure to advertisements in social media applications and in online browsing. Video games and movies portray an unrealistic character too, however, from the perspective of teenagers, they want to become that said individual. These platforms often receive sponsorships from different companies that may or may not involve unhealthy foods. For example, a movie character may be eating a bag of chips or going to McDonald’s because they are in a rush. Research suggests that these platforms promote high caloric foods and beverages that lead to diabetes type II, this increase in obesity and diabetes rates in the past decades.


A specific example would be every annual Superbowl commercial. Nationwide, families gather together and watch the Superbowl while celebrating, however, the influence of advertisements on teenagers is easily influenced. For example, they could relate the emotions of joy and family gatherings to Wendy’s fresh fast food burgers subconsciously.

Moreover, the regular teenager activities in the past, when technology was not as advanced, were sports, spending time in parks, and physical interactions with other individuals. Teenagers view happiness as the critical factor in deciding what they should do during their leisure time. Before it was spending time with friends playing a sport, but now it may be spending time with friends playing a video game or spending time using social media. This can often lead to the so-called “binge” aspect of social media. Platforms such as YouTube and Netflix are video content based, where one video may lead to the next interesting video for YouTube, and for Netflix the next episode to the series. The act of “binging” leads to less sleep because they are spending more of their leisure time and expanding it into their rest time. A smaller window for rest and sleep may lead to a rushed morning causing individuals to rely on ready-made foods to replace a proper healthy breakfast from fruits and vegetables. This can lead to obesity because there is an increase in consumption of high caloric foods because healthier options are replaced with quick and easy accessed foods.


On the other hand, there is the perspective where over-usage of media has no effect on obesity. For example, the conceptualization of a video gamer is mainly on the extreme sides. Video gamers are either seen as the obese gamer or super skinny gamer. No image of an individual in between the described extremes come to thought. It can be viewed that there is a misconception on whether the time spent on video games and media is the actual cause of obesity because some video gamers have different eating habits and different lifestyles compared to other gamers. Research indicates that there is a weak relationship between obesity rates and media usage or video games.


Although it may show a positive correlation of the general trends over time of the two variables, it doesn’t mean that there is a causation, but rather bidirectional ambiguity, where no one variable can cause the other. There is limited empirical evidence to support the claim that media usage and video games cause obesity.

Furthermore, there is a criticism of the accuracy and understanding of data analysis. There are many ways to analyze data in relation to obesity. Researchers often take a reductionists approach and solely focus on whether the individuals have long media time usages or gaming hours and relate that to their body mass index (BMI). Other factors such as socioeconomic status, diet, habits, and exercise are all ignored. There may be a similar behavior for individuals who spend 3-5 hours or more on social media and video games. They may all have similar diets or habits that result in them to be overweight or obese. These can all be confounding variables which are not taken into account in research. In addition, new statistical modeling techniques have been implemented. AMOS and MINITAB are software’s that use the Taguchi method to improve data analysis. This allows for multiple different factors to be taken into account and target an optimized variable. This type of data analysis would take socioeconomic status, diets, and habits into account, thus having stronger data, results, and conclusions.


Moreover, to counteract the supporting evidence in the opposite perspective, where social media and platforms support unhealthy and high caloric foods lead to obesity, social media can also help deviate away from obesity. There is the idea of social norms and the desired male and female body. This is often represented in movies and social media platforms. Individuals who can identify the importance of maintaining a healthy body can follow diets and lifestyle habits of those who are fit and healthy. The role models can set an example for a healthy fit lifestyle so that people using social media for an extended period can observe and change the mentality. Research indicates that topics on physical appearance are prevalent.5 There is often stigmatism because it is straightforward to judge another individual with the ease that no one else can target you back, however, for those follow and subscribe to healthy and fit social media platforms can implement healthier habits into their daily lives, thus improving their physical wellbeing and avoid obesity.

Moving on, the supporting evidence for both sides of the argument is reasonable. The quality of the supporting evidence of the “yes” side of the argument shows that the research identifies how and why obesity occurs due to the unbalanced leisure usage. Both sides have a reductionists approach, however, the “no” side has an argument that past research that doesn’t use the Taguchi method does not identify an optimized factor. In addition, the “no” side evidence counteracts support research of the “yes” side. For example, social media and role models in sponsored movies or advertisements set bad examples; however, teenagers want to become their role models, thus physically and mentally. There are also misconceptions in the “yes” side evidence. The “binging” act led to a replacement for a healthy breakfast into a high caloric food. This would mean that the over-usage of media is an intermediate step that leads to the intake of high caloric food that causes obesity.

In conclusion, the “yes” side has more empirical research, however, “the “no” side has far better counterarguments. The most convincing perspective is that exposure and over-usage of media and video games do not cause obesity.


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    Pediatric clinics of North America

    (2011). Available at: (Accessed: 21st October 2018)
  2. Calvert, S. L., Staiano, A. E. & Bond, B. J. Electronic Gaming and the Obesity Crisis.

    New directions for child and adolescent development

    (2013). Available at: (Accessed: 21st October 2018)
  3. Robinson, T. N.

    et al.

    Screen Media Exposure and Obesity in Children and Adolescents.


    (2017). Available at: (Accessed: 21st October 2018)
  4. Vandewater, E. A. & Denis, L. M. Media, Social Networking, and Pediatric Obesity.

    Pediatric clinics of North America

    (2011). Available at: (Accessed: 21st October 2018)

  5. Robinson, T. N.

    et al.

    Screen Media Exposure and Obesity in Children and Adolescents.


    (2017). Available at: (Accessed: 21st October 2018)