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Title: Problematic use of internet-related activities and perceived weight stigma in schoolchildren : a longitudinal study across different epidemic periods of COVID-19 in China
Authors: Fung, XCC 
Siu, AMH 
Potenza, MN
O'Brien, KS
Latner, JD
Chen, CY
Chen, IH
Lin, CY
Issue Date: May-2021
Source: Frontiers in psychiatry, May 2021, v. 12, 675839
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.
Keywords: Children
Problematic smartphone use
Problematic social media use
Weight stigma
Publisher: Frontiers Research Foundation
Journal: Frontiers in psychiatry 
EISSN: 1664-0640
DOI: 10.3389/fpsyt.2021.675839
Rights: © 2021 Fung, Siu, Potenza, O'Brien, Latner, Chen, Chen and Lin. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY) ( The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.
The following publication Fung XCC, Siu AMH, Potenza MN, O'Brien KS, Latner JD, Chen C-Y, Chen I-H and Lin C-Y (2021) Problematic Use of Internet-Related Activities and Perceived Weight Stigma in Schoolchildren: A Longitudinal Study Across Different Epidemic Periods of COVID-19 in China. Front. Psychiatry 12:675839 is available at
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