Video games may make children fat.
Children have been gaining weight excessively over the last 20 years. In 1980 6.5% of the children aged 6 to 11 were obese, but by 1994 that number had climbed to 11.3%. Currently over 30% of children are overweight, while 17% are considered obese (Parker-Pope, 2008). What has caused this epidemic like increase in child obesity? There are many proposed causes that have been linked to child obesity. However, if we examine children’s lifestyles over the last 25 years it appears that video games may be the primary contributing factor to the increase in weight and obesity rates amongst children
When video games were first introduced to family households they were considered just another form of entertainment for children, not unlike radios, record players, or televisions. However, video games have evolved into media traps that promote sedentary lifestyles. Children now sit glued for hours to video screens rather than performing physical activities. In a study researchers from the University Hospital of Zurich present a strong association between playing video games and obesity in school-aged Swiss children (Edell, 2004). Their research supported the notion that when children are preoccupied with playing video games, they are not performing physical activity consistent with a healthy lifestyle. Playing video games is a sedentary activity that has a direct affect on weight gain in children.
Some believe that video games have little impact on child obesity rates because children today are more aware and independent than previous generations. As a result, children are more conscious of their lives and are able to make healthy choices regarding exercise and video game playing. However, video games have developed from simple pixels and basic animation to the advanced life like games we see today. The advances in technology have made it difficult for children to stay away from video games, and some researchers believe it has psychological and addictive qualities. These powerful qualities make it difficult for children to monitor the amount of time they spend playing video games. In addition, children may also find it difficult to pull themselves away from video games in exchange for healthier physical activities. Dr. Mark Griffiths of Nottingham Trent University, an expert on video game addiction, believes that the games of the 21st century may be more psychologically rewarding then the games of the early 1980s (BBC news, 2000). Subsequently, children may not feel fulfilled until they reach the next level of the game, or beat a high score. The addictive qualities of video games were revealed in a recent study of children in their early teens. The study revealed that one third played video games daily, and 7% played for at least 30 hours a week (BBC news, 2000). Video games are able to capture children’s minds and start the path to poor health at extremely young ages. Dr. Griffiths suggests that children as early as the age of seven are drawn to video games. The strong addictive qualities of video games may prevent a child from exercising and being active even if they wanted to.
It may be easy to argue that the television is the culprit for overweight children. However, televisions have been in North American households for over 65 years, but the increase in child obesity has occurred within the previous 25 years. Televisions have remained relatively unchanged, but the video game has mutated into an interactive child magnet. Children are able to play on line, play with multiple players, and interact with gamers globally. Today’s video games are also portable, recordable, and are easily rented. In addition, video game advertising is focused at luring and capturing a child’s impressionable mind. Some studies corroborate the findings that video games, not television, are associated with overweight children. Researchers at the University of Texas...
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