Is the current generation of children heavier than the one before? Does this current generation sit in front of the television or computer longer than their parents did? Examining some of the factors that lead to possibility that the present crop of tweens and teens are heftier than their parents were at the same age might help in deciding what to do about this generation’s nutrition and exercise habits.
First of all, children do not run around and play like they used to. The reasons for this are many. It is no longer safe out there. There are crazy people cruising the neighborhood, luring children into cars in the suburbs and even crazier people randomly shooting into crowds in the urban areas. Parents keep their kids inside, and of course entertainment is needed to keep the kids from asking too many questions. So, parents make certain that the kids have all kinds of video game consoles and the accompanying games. Now the children do not want to go outside, even if the parents have checked to see if the coast is clear of shooters and lurers. There is nothing to do; all of the excitement now is located in the game box. Children can drive their own cars, fight with other people, shoot into their own crowd of people. Why go outside to shoot a basketball or socialize with other humans? Why learn to ride a bike when one can drive a virtual car?
So, when the excitement of the game wears off (Parents, when the child is tired of the game, it can be sold back to the store—this is highly recommended to help pay for diet camp.), kids turn to the television. Now, here is a strange phenomenon that has occurred: in the seventies and eighties, and even into the nineties, teenaged girls would emulate the models on commercials by cultivating anorexic and bulimic lifestyles. Apparently, in the present day, kids drool over fast food and soft drink ads. Another feature that separates the modern day child’s entertainment from that of his or her parents is the amount of it. In the seventies, cable television was not so prevalent—it was just appearing on the scene! There were about five channels and maybe HBO if the homeowner wanted to pay for it. Now, there are hundreds of channels available, and even if there is nothing on (and quite often there isn’t), it takes quite a while to channel surf through all of the offerings before making the determination that time is being wasted.
There must be a solution to this problem; all of the technology available now is wonderful, and it should not be cut out of children’s lives because they are becoming fat. They might need the technology in future careers, so it is useful. But, maybe parents need to refer to some of the techniques they enlisted when the kids were babies and toddlers—set a schedule, impose limits and feed them healthier foods. Do things together—teach them to ride bikes and to shoot a basketball, and then participate in these activities after teaching them. And, if the parent is worried about the children being “out there” exploring the neighborhood with crazy people around, invest in cell phones with a tracking system for the kids. The dangers that are occurring indoors can be nearly as dangerous as the ones that infrequently occur outdoors.