Changes in Lifestyle and Technology, and their Effects on Childhood Obesity
University Composition and Communication II
According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, the number of overweight teens has tripled since 1980. In younger children, obesity has doubled. This is not a fact to be taken lightly, as it threatens the health of our children. Sedentary lifestyle is listed as one of the possible causes of this obesity epidemic. Many children these days tend to occupy themselves with activities that take place sitting in front of some sort of screen, like television or computer games. Previous generations had fewer obese children, and fewer television programs, which leads some researchers to believe the two may be linked.
Finding the causes of childhood obesity may be the first step in preventing it. By preventing obesity, other things are prevented as well. Overweight children can be at risk for back pain, joint pain, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. A study published in Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry (2011), suggests that overweight children are at a higher risk for anxiety disorders and substance abuse. These are very serious problems, and most parents will want to prevent them, if they are able, so again we must look to the causes. Possibly the most obvious cause would be genetics. Genetics play a role in how fat is stored, and can also affect metabolism. Having a slow metabolism requires a person to work harder to maintain a healthy weight than someone with a high metabolism. A child who has obese parents will be more likely to have problems controlling his or her weight. Since genetics are uncontrollable, it is necessary to look at other causes.
Sedentary lifestyles could also be blamed for childhood obesity. A sedentary lifestyle is one that does not include a lot of physical activity. The lifestyles of children now, compared to those of children 25 years ago have changed dramatically. Children of past generations had to entertain themselves with their imaginations, outdoor games, and adventures. Advancements in technology have somewhat limited our need for imagination, and placed entertainment at our fingertips wherever we go. Our society seems to need constant entertainment, and our children are no different. They generally prefer to watch television, play electronic games, or surf the Internet, rather than engage in physical activity. This makes the outdoor adventures become boring, or too much work, and children choose to play indoors. When they are indoors, obviously there is less opportunity to move around, so they become inactive and gain weight. When children play outside, they tend to be more active, and more likely to maintain a healthy weight.
While new technology is not a bad thing, this wider variety of entertainment will take the blame for keeping children glued to a screen. Children who grew up in the 80s and 90s may have had only four or five television stations to choose from. For the most part, kid friendly programming such as cartoons, were only aired for an hour or two in the afternoons, and for a few hours on Saturday mornings. Children would get up early on weekends so that they could enjoy these programs. The majority of American households now have cable, or satellite television. This gives children hundreds of programs to choose from at any given time. Some channels, like Nickelodeon and Disney, are specifically formatted for children. Children may choose to stay up later, and therefore sleep later on the weekends. This can disrupt their sleep schedules, causing them to be wide awake when their parents want them to go to bed. Aside from the fact that this can interfere with school night bed time routines, unhealthy sleep habits can also contribute to excess weight. Everyone needs sleep to give their bodies time to rest, heal, and rejuvenate. Children are still growing and developing, and require more...
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