Problematic Use of Internet-Related Activities and Perceived Weight Stigma in Schoolchildren: A Longitudinal Study Across Different Epidemic Periods of COVID-19 in China

Xavier C.C. Fung, Andrew M.H. Siu, Marc N. Potenza, Kerry S. O'Brien, Janet D. Latner, Chao Ying Chen, I. Hua Chen*, Chung Ying Lin*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Article peer-review

51 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background: Social distancing and school suspension due to the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) may have a negative impact on children's behavior and well-being. Problematic smartphone use (PSU), problematic social media use (PSMU) and perceived weight stigma (PWS) are particularly important issues for children, yet we have a poor understanding of how these may have been affected by lockdowns and physical isolation resulting from COVID-19. This research aimed to understand how these psychosocial and behavioral variables may be associated with psychological distress, and how these associations may have changed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Methods: A total of 489 children completed a three-wave longitudinal study from January 2020 to June 2020. The first wave was conducted before the COVID-19 outbreak. The second wave was conducted during the outbreak. The third wave was conducted during post-COVID-19 lockdown. Questionnaires measured psychological distress, PSU, PSMU, and PWS. Results: PSU, PSMU, PWS and psychological distress were all significantly associated with each other. PSU was significantly higher during outbreak. PWS was significantly higher before outbreak. We found an increased association between PSMU and PWS across three waves in all three models. The association between PSU and depression/anxiety decreased across three waves; however, association between PSMU and depression/anxiety increased across three waves. Conclusions: COVID-19 initiated school suspension and associated lockdowns appear to have exacerbated PSU and depression among children. However, PWS was reduced during this period. Children should use smartphones and social media safely and cautiously, and be aware of the potential exposure to weight stigmatization.

Original languageEnglish
Article number675839
JournalFrontiers in Psychiatry
Volume12
DOIs
StatePublished - 24 05 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Copyright © 2021 Fung, Siu, Potenza, O'Brien, Latner, Chen, Chen and Lin.

Keywords

  • COVID-19
  • children
  • problematic smartphone use
  • problematic social media use
  • weight stigma

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