One of the biggest causes of childhood obesity would be the lack of
physical activity that a child takes part in. Children are less willing
to go outside and get the necessary activity and parents could be one
of the biggest causes of this. In past decades children would be
allowed to go outside the direct supervision of their parents and play
with other neighborhood children. Except, protective parenting hurts a
child’s opportunity to go out and play (Galea 60). A parent does not
want their child going off somewhere, because there are a lot more
threats of what people are willing to do nowadays. Not all the blame
can be put on the parents though. Towns and neighborhoods have become a
lot more populated in recent years, which means that areas are much
more congested. Around the time where parents would let their children
go play and explore there was also a lot of open fields or maybe even
wooded areas that were accessible for neighborhood kids. Now these
simple popular playtime spots are overrun by both commercial and
residential life (Smith 31). This time of freedom and friends made
being active and going outside fun, and that attitude is no longer in
our modern society.
The protectiveness of parents is not the only reason why parents could
be causing the rise in childhood obesity. Children pick up on their
habits from their parents, therefore it is important that they set a
good example. Parent’s need to participate in play with their children
so they can learn by example, but only 38% of parents do participate
(Galea 63). Parents who lead an active lifestyle will more than likely
have children who will do the same (Smith 31). The shifting society
that we live in creates a higher demand of work, therefore, working
hours and sedentary working conditions allow less time and opportunity
for parents to lead an active lifestyle (Smith 31). I understand that a
parent can be busy and have little free time, but the time that they do
have must be spent in ways that affect their children in a positive
School districts have been facing major budget cut problems in recent
years. This has made them make very difficult decisions on what
programs to cut and what programs to keep. Physical education programs
have been hit hard by this crisis. Only half of American schools have a
fully implemented policy for achieving daily physical activity (Galea
61). School is where children learn a lot of their habits and take on
these habits for the rest of their lives. Obese children are 35% less
active on school days than non-obese children, compared to them being
65% less active on weekends (“Childhood Obesity” par. 15). These are
both very high percentages, but during school days obese children are
pushed to be more active. If all schools pushed for a physical activity
policy these percentages could become a whole lot smaller and that
would be a change for the better.
The schools cannot take all the blame for why children are not more
physically active. The bigger problem lies in that children do not
participate in free time physical activity. 22.6% of children do not
engage in any type of free time physical activity (Freedman S-237).
According to Alive, a Canadian health magazine, only 7% of children
perform an hour of physical activity that leads them to be out of breath
and sweating (Galea 60). Not only is free time physical activity a
shortage but organized physical activity is as well. About 61.5% of
children do not participate in any organized physical activity during
non school hours (Freedman S-237). These organized sports and
activities create friendships and other important life skills such as
teamwork, time management, and so much more.
A major reason behind why obese children do not get involved in
organized or free time physical activity is because once a child is
overweight they are a lot less willing to put themselves out there and
get involved because of the fear of being harassed (Torkos 42). If a
child does not get involved because of this fear it makes the likelihood
of losing the weight a lot less. Almost 60% of overweight adolescents
never lose the excess weight (Galea 62). This weight does not go away
once a child grows up most of the time, because overweight and obese
children have a 70% chance of being an overweight or obese adult (Torkos
42). In a survey of 6,000 adults, 25% who were active at age 14-19
are also active adults today. Compare this to the result that only 2%
who were inactive at age 14-19 were now active adults (WIKI par. 62).
An overuse of technology is a reason as well as to why children are not
getting the recommended amount of physical activity. The habits in
today’s youth have turned away from running around and playing games
with the neighborhood kids and been substituted it with spending hours
playing video games, watching television, and other electronics (Smith
??). When using these methods of entertainment in moderation, it is not
an issue whatsoever, but the problem occurs when there is an overuse of
technology. Four or more hours of television a day is watched by about
twenty-six percent of American youth (Crouse par. 4). Add this up with
time spent in school where most of the time is spent sitting in desks
and children barely spend any time active. Less than two hours of
screen time is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (Crouse
par. 9). According to a study children who watched four or more hours
of television per day had a substantially higher BMI, or body mass
index, than those who watched less than two (Freedman S-238). Another
study done with teens ages fourteen, sixteen, and eighteen showed that
these teens who watched four or more hours of television per day are
twenty- one percent more likely to be overweight. A similar study done
with computer usage showed that the same age group was four percent more
likely to be overweight when using a computer one or more hours per day
(“Childhood Obesity Facts” par. 17).
The advancing society that we are living in today creates easy access
to technology. Therefore, the more access to technology means more time
using it while sitting around (Galea 60). A test done that was done on
children age five to seventeen year old that showed that 67% of time
that they are awake is spent sedentary (Galea 60). This percentage is a
substantial part of the day wasted just sitting around. This leaves
little time for any time physical movement whether it is walking,
running, or any other activity.
Food advertising effects the childhood obesity rate because these
companies take certain steps to sell to the unhealthy products to the
younger aged users. Advertising occurs through both television and the
Internet, which makes it able influence our society at such a high
rate. Half of all advertising time on children’s shows is food
advertising (Crouse par. 5). Typically these foods are packed with
calories, fat, sugar, and salt (Smith 31). For example, a company is
able to market to the younger generation by using famous characters from
the programs on the channel on which the advertisement presides on
(Crouse par. 5). Or, if they cannot afford to use the licensed
characters they create their own cartoon characters and use them as a
strong selling point, like having them do interesting scenes to intrigue
and draw in those who they are trying to target.
Companies invest a lot of money into advertising their products,
especially food companies. The Institute of Medicine estimates that
over ten billion dollars is spent every year to advertise food and
beverages to children (Smith 31). Three billion dollars a year is spent
on fast food advertising alone (Crouse par. 5). This is money that
could be put towards pushing healthy messages. Instead, it is spent to
push kids to make bad decisions that not only effect them now, but for
the rest of their lives.
The number of advertisements viewed by a child is ridiculously high.
On average a child views twenty- one advertisements for food each day.
This number equals out to 7,600 per year (Smith 31). These
advertisements can vary from for pre-packaged foods, to fast food
restaurants, and sometimes the rare healthy options. A popular fast
food franchise, McDonald’s, advertises on 13 websites that are targeted
towards children and teenagers. Each month these websites containing
these advertisements are viewed by 365,000 children and 294,000
teenagers (“Childhood Obesity” par. 12). Even though children cannot
drive themselves or go grocery shopping for these foods, they are able
to manipulate or push their parents into getting these unhealthy
advertised foods for them. This is not only an issue with advertising
but overall diet as well.
Action is beginning to be taken against what food advertisements can
put on television. The flaw with this plan is that food companies are
going around televised advertisement restrictions by putting it all over
the internet (Crouse par. 8). Some broadcasters such as Disney are
trying to incorporate healthy messages into their advertisements and
programming (Crouse par. 6). They even attempt to appeal to the
parents by talking about where to buy fresh foods and the best ways to
cook them. These seem like we are heading in the right direction, but
they are falling short of their goals (Crouse par. 6). Society is too
stuck in the unhealthy and convenient habits that it would take a major
movement to even have a chance to change eating habits.
Advertising does effect a child’s diet, but it is not the only thing.
Over the past few decades the quality of what is put into the human body
has dropped tremendously. Unhealthy food is more readily available
than it has been in the past, with nearly an unlimited supply of soda,
chips, fast food, and candy almost everywhere someone would go (Torkos
40). Food is available 24 hours a day in places that were once
unrelated to eating, for example, gas stations and drug stores (Freedman
S-239). Calorie filled food and drinks are extremely available to
children, and one of the top offenders is soda (WIKI par. 11). A study
was done on 550 children over a 19 month period. Over this time period
the likelihood of obesity increased about 1.6 times for every additional
soda consumed per day (WIKI par. 11). Another alarming statistic about
soda consumed by children is that about 71% of school-age children
consume at least one soda daily (Freedman ??). Another food that is
readily available is fast food. Around 75% of seventh to twelfth grade
students consume fast food at least once a week (WIKI par. 12). This
food is easy and quick which fits the convenient lifestyle that our
society loves.
Dr. Casey Gray, project manager for the Healthy Active Living and
Obesity Research Group, states, “Parents look at other kids as the
status quo, and since the population is generally overweight this seems
to be leading them to believe their own kids are a healthy, normal
weight.” This quote represents the ideal that parent’s minds are
manipulated by what they see and hear. A child may beg to have a
certain food and they may cave because they just do not want to put up a
fight. A more specific example is that a child manipulates their tired
and stressed out parents into buying ready-to-eat foods that are high
in both fat and sugar (Freedman S-238). Not only this, but families
have to manage a lot of stresses, like work, children, and life. This
makes them fall back on pre- packaged options to save time (Torkos 42).
After a long day of work parents are becoming less willing to make a
nice meal for their family, therefore they fall to the many
opportunities to get a quick unhealthy meal (Smith 31). Families are
becoming reliant on convenience food, and it is necessary to get away
from those habits (Smith 31).
Advertising and parents both affect a child’s diet, but you cannot
forget the dangers of natural drive. A child’s eating patterns are
influenced by the physical and social environment (Galea 62). At the
age of four hunger does not drive a child to eat, children are prompted
to eat on a schedule like the lunch period at school, family routines,
or friends (Galea 62). This natural drive to eat comes from the fact
that a child’s taste for protein rich foods are inherited, while
vegetables and desserts can be influenced (Crouse par. 10). This
influence comes from what a child sees on television and their
environment around them (Galea 60). Vegetables have always had a
negative stigma on them because they do not taste as good, while
desserts have always been received in a positive manner.


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