(USA TODAY) -- Only 27% of kids ages 12-15 meet the recommended limit of two hours or less of TV plus computer use daily, new government statistics show.
And 7% of kids this age reported watching five hours or more a day of TV, while 5% said they used a computer for five hours or more, according to the 2012 data analyzed by the National Center for Health Statistics. At the other end of the spectrum, just less than 2% reported no daily TV viewing, and 9% reported no computer use.
This is the first time that this particular age group's screen-use habits have been examined using this combined set of sources, "so there's no real trend data to say that, yes, these kids are watching more TV or less," says Kirsten Herrick, a NCHS epidemiologist and lead author of the new report.
Herrick says getting an accurate read on the extent of kids' screen-usage is complicated by all the new technologies now available. "We don't know, for example, how kids would have categorized watching TV on a cellphone. Technology has outpaced our ability to capture (usage), so we might have an overestimation or an underestimation. We're really not sure."
Excessive screen-time use has been linked to elevated blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, and being overweight or obese among kids, the report notes. Screen-time behavior established in adolescence has been shown to continue into adulthood, it adds.
As a result, the American Academy of Pediatrics says children and teens should engage with entertainment media for no more than one or two hours per day, and the media content should be of "high quality." The AAP says that children under age 2 should get no screen time.
Using data from the 2012 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) and the 2012 NHANES National Youth Fitness Survey, the new report also shows that as kids' weight increased, the percentage of those who reported watching two hours or less of TV viewing and computer use declined.
One-third (31%) of youths classified as underweight or normal weight reported two hours or less of TV viewing and computer use daily, compared with 23% of overweight kids, and 20% of obese kids.
Herrick cautions that the report cannot say that screen time causes weight gain because these kids were looked at once, but it does show an "association" between the two.
Among other findings in the NCHS report:
• Nearly all (99%) adolescents said they watched TV daily; 91% reported using the computer daily outside of school.
• Although there were no significant gender differences associated with the amount of TV viewing, girls were more likely than boys to report using the computer for two hours or less a day (80% vs. 69%).
• TV viewing habits differed by race and Hispanic origin, with 29% of white, 26% of Hispanic and 20% of black youths meeting daily screen-time limits.