Screen Time: Friend or Foe? Faculty Feature: Get to Know Dr. Amanda Staiano

Screen Time: Friend or Foe?
Faculty Feature: Get to Know Dr. Amanda Staiano

Released: Thursday, February 15, 2018

The statistics are indisputable: Children spend too much time with TVs, tablets, and smartphones, and not enough time moving their bodies. Maybe you've wondered what can be done to help.

Luckily, our very own Dr. Amanda Staiano is fuel for the fire to reverse the obesity epidemic. As a developmental psychologist in pediatric obesity with an interest in technology, Dr. Staiano is investigating how technological devices can affect youths' physical activity.

Her objective is to turn technology into something that helps instead of hurts—something to encourage children to develop a healthy, sustainable habit of regular physical activity.

Enter: Exergaming.

Exergaming combines technology and physical activity to redefine fitness. That is, it makes exercise fun, especially for those who dislike structured exercise regimens.  

Did you know?
Dr. Staiano gave a TED talk at the 2016 TEDxLSU. Her speech is titled, "The Serious Fun of Exergaming." Watch it here.

One of Staiano's studies used a 12-week exergame intervention to measure not just weight loss and other physical health factors, but also psychosocial health factors.

After 12 weeks of exergaming for 60 minutes three times a week, study participants who attended the exergame intervention lost body fat and developed positive changes in self-efficacy towards physical activity (a measure of self-confidence) compared to the control group, which did not play the exergames.   

While we know physical activity is an important component for weight loss, the psychosocial factors measured in this study offer additional insight, Staiano said.

"The goal is to make exercise a regular habit," she said. "That part is almost entirely psychological, so measuring outcomes like self-efficacy is crucial to understanding what kind of exercise promotes adherence."  

Did you know? 
"Kids with obesity report their quality of life is as low as kids who are recovering from cancer."

Dr. Staiano is also interested in discovering ways to overcome barriers that may block active play time in a child's everyday life.  

That's where her current study, "Translational Investigation of Growth and Everyday Routine in Kids" (TIGER Kids), comes in. TIGER Kids uses activity trackers and GPS monitors to discover when and where children are getting physical activity.

Why pediatric obesity research matters:
"We're also finding obesity is related to academic and behavior challenges, disrupted sleep, and an over-exposure to TV and other sedentary activities."
"Each time I see a child in one of our studies start to lose weight or learn how good it feels to move their bodies and to be filled with nutritious food, my passion is fueled." 
"I know our research is making a difference here in Baton Rouge and throughout the world." - Dr. Amanda Staiano

The TIGER Kids study will determine barriers and facilitators of physical activity that are related to obesity, including environmental and social factors.

The research will address a critical health need: to identify times, locations and contexts in a child's day that are optimal opportunities to increase physical activity.

Dr. Staiano's TIGER Kids study is actively enrolling participants. If you'd like to sign up your child for TIGER Kids, screen online here.

TIGER Kids is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

If you'd like to receive e-mail updates about our other ongoing and upcoming studies, sign up here.

For more information on how you can support this and other projects at LSU’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center, visit