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Kids Watching TV while eating?

Is your child in front of a TV or a mobile phone or an iPad? Are those little eyes watching the screen and not the plate/platter? Caution dear parents, distracted eating causes loss of Brain & Gut connection and hence most of the time they won’t be able to sense food, color, texture, and taste.  This is also called Unconsious eating. 

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We often resort to screen time when our children don’t eat. It is luckily an occasional scenario at my mom’s place and sometimes my husband does that too. But many babies and kids I’ve come across are way too addicted to mobile or TV shows for eating that not even a morsel of food goes down their throats, without it. Mealtime for babies should never be screentime. There are many side effects of feeding in screentime.

In this article, we shall know the impact of screen time on little children and some simple yet practical solutions.

The Impact of Screen Times on Meal Times 

1. Affects Brain and Gut Connection – Excessive screen time during meals can disrupt the communication between the brain and the digestive system. This disruption may prevent children from properly sensing the characteristics of food, such as color, texture, and taste, thereby leading to decreased enjoyment and recognition of different foods.

2. Overeating – When children are distracted by screens while eating, they may lose touch with their body’s natural hunger and hunger cues. This lack of awareness can lead to overeating or consuming food without real hunger, contributing to unhealthy eating patterns. Such  distracted eating in children gives rise to many health issues including obesity. 

Also Read: Tackling Childhood Obesity : 5 Reasons & Tips to Cure

3. Low Metabolic Rate – Screentime at meals often means less focus on chewing, which is essential for the initial step of digestion. Poorly chewed food compromises nutrient absorption and slows down the metabolism, which can lead to indigestion and inefficient fat burning. This is the effect of pseudo eating.  A baby watching TV while eating has reducing metabolic rate compared to the metabolic rate when the child is focused on eating only. 

4. Social Eating Issues – Regular use of screens at meal times can make it challenging for children to adapt to social eating environments, such as school cafeterias or dining out. They may struggle to engage in normal eating behaviors when expected to eat without the distraction of a device, affecting their social interactions and eating habits outside the home.

Tips to Reduce Screen Time Feeding

1. Designate Screen-Free Zones – As a family, decide not to bring or use phones in certain areas, specifically the dining area. This helps everyone focus on mealtime without distractions. This helps in overcoming distracted eating. Mealtime for babies should also be organized in a screen – free zone.  

2. Offer Food Only on Demand – Often, feeding by the clock is the culprit. I’ve made a detailed video on this topic; please have a look. Let’s help them respect their hunger cues by offering food only when they are genuinely hungry, ensuring their focus is on the food and not on mobile devices. And never push to empty a plate or eat more. Screentime during meals for toddlers should be a strict no.  

3. Do Not Talk Negatively About Screen Time – In an era where children learn and grow with knowledge shared from screens, it is practically impossible to completely avoid them. They also need to learn about technology, but it becomes problematic when overdone. To practice mindful eating and also satisfy their need for the screen, I have given my children one tablet with a time restriction set for about 1 hour which can be the maximum screentime per day, and they share half an hour each to play, learn, or watch their favorite show. Let’s make it a positive and happy hour because talking negatively about something can make children more curious, restless, and demanding. A distracting screen at mealtimes should be completely avoided. 

4. Lead by Example – First, follow all that we preach. No mobiles in screen-free zones, eat only when hungry, avoid overeating or junk food, and limit screen usage to necessary activities only—like talking, browsing, playing, or entertainment. Children’s mealtime can be family mealtime too so that kids follow mindful eating.  

Few lifestyle changes can take us all a long and healthy way. Wish to see some change, let me know in the comments. 

Video : Impact of Screen Time while feeding Babies & Kids

Video Link in Kannada: ಮೊಬೈಲ್ ನೋಡಿ ತಿನ್ನುವುದರ ದುಷ್ಪರಿಣಾಮ 

Video Link in Hindi: मोबाइल देखके खाने के दुष्परिणाम

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