Society, in general, has drastically changed over the past century. Growth and expansion have paved the way for new technological advances, but not with some downfalls to go along with it. One such downfall of new technology would be the “convenience factor” (convenient stores for junk food, convenient to watch television, play video games, watch a movie, talk or text on a cellular phone as opposed to physical exercise, convenient for parents to stop by fast food as opposed to healthy meals). Lack of parental controls in these areas in conjunction with the “convenience factor” has lead to childhood obesity.
This is an increasingly growing disease and will continue to be so if society does not stop being so convenient. The American Society today has become “obesogenic’, characterized by environments that promote increased food intake, unhealthy foods, and physical inactivity (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2010). People (children and adults) spend more time in front of televisions or computers and less time exercising. We drive a car everywhere we go as opposed to walking or riding a bicycle. Children play more video games instead of playing hide and seek, which requires them to run around, being active and getting exercise.
We lead busier lives so time does not allow for spending it in the kitchen preparing healthy meals. Parents live such hectic lifestyles which often lead to dining or getting take out at a fast food restaurant, making them guilty of contributing to childhood obesity. Children with obese parents are likely to follow in their parents footsteps and become obese themselves. Overweight and obesity result from an energy deficiency. This incorporates taking in too much food (too many calories) and lack of exercise; thus defining obesity.
The imbalance between calories consumed and calories used can result from the influences and interactions of a number of factors, including genetic, behavioral, and environmental factors. Studies indicate that certain genetic characteristics may increase an individual’s susceptibility to excess body weight. However, this genetic susceptibility may need to exist in conjunction with contributing environmental and behavioral factors (such as a high-calorie food supply and minimal physical activity) to have a significant effect on weight. Genetic factors alone can play a role in specific cases of obesity.
The genetic characteristics of the human population have not changed in the last three decades, but the prevalence of obesity has tripled among school-aged children during that time. Because the factors that contribute to childhood obesity interact with each other, it is not possible to specify one behavior as the “cause” of obesity. Behaviors include energy intake, physical activity, and sedentary behavior. Home, child care, school, and community environments can influence children’s behaviors related to food intake and physical activity (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2009).
Parents in the workplace often lead demanding, hectic lifestyles that have a direct reflection on home life activities. Activities, such as eating habits for their children, are a casualty of their fast-paced environment. Such lifestyles lead to quick unhealthy meals, such as stopping at a fast-food establishment and consuming a high caloric meal. These types of meals are historically unhealthy with no nutritional value. Nutritional items, such as fruits and vegetables, are limited at these types of establishments. Healthy, home cooked meals are not the “normal” routine for parents to provide their children of this era.
Time does not allow for parents to prepare healthy, home cooked meals. “The evidence is compelling that the obesity epidemic is largely caused by people’s eating unhealthy food and consuming bigger portion sizes. These unhealthy behaviors are not just a matter of poor decisions individuals make; rather, the environment in which people live determines behavioral choice” (Isaacs & Swarts, 2010). Parents’ workplace habits can directly affect their children’s daily eating routines. Children are relying on parents to provide them with healthy meals.
There are many things parents can do to assist children in developing healthy eating habits. Offering fruits and vegetables, dairy products or whole grain items as nutritious snacks, as opposed to allowing them to submerge themselves in chips or sugar filled snacks, is a viable alternative to an unhealthy diet. The obesity rate for children would decrease if parents would make time to plan a healthy weekly menu. By doing so, parents are ensuring that their children get the daily recommended amount of fruits and vegetables in their diet, thus making for a healthier child.
Parents should lead by example. Children need to see parents eating different things, to encourage the child to want to try new food items. “Children and adolescents are dependent on their parents for both economically and emotionally during much of this period of rapid growth” (Davies & Fitzgerald, 2008, pg. 25). One of the best ways to decrease obesity in children is to increase physical activity levels throughout the entire family. Parents, at home or at the workplace, are faced daily with busy schedules, long hours and time management issues (i. e. nsuring all required daily activities, such as household responsibilities, errands are completed).
These tasks are direct contributors for the lack of time set aside for physical activity with their children. Also, parents’ daily work schedules do not allow much, if any, time to incorporate a daily physical exercise routine for their children, let alone to monitor such activities. Parents should act as role models by setting examples for their children, such as allowing their children to see them exercise and being active themselves. By “leading by example”, this should encourage children to emulate them.
According to the American Heart Association and the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (Payne, 2010), children should get at least 20 minutes of regular vigorous exercise that makes them sweat and breathe hard. With the apparent lack of physical activity, parents need to create an environment that is conducive to building a daily regime of physical activities that slowly grow over time. “Minutes spent playing kickball with friends during recess count toward the hour-long daily goal, as does climbing trees in the backyard after school. It doesn’t have to be all at once,’ says Nancy Brown, CEO of the AHA.
‘Kids should be doing things appropriate for their age, so that [exercise] becomes a behavior and a natural part of what they do’” (Payne, 2010). Providing just small increments of daily activity that is geared towards the child’s age category can foster a lifetime of behavioral changes that could prevent the onset of obesity at a later age. Another factor in the saga of fighting childhood obesity is the issue of safety and having a safe environment in which to add physical activity.
Advocate for well-maintained, safe sidewalks and bike paths in your neighborhood, and volunteer to supervise the use of school facilities after hours. Children are more likely to want to play outside—and you’ll feel more comfortable with them doing it—if it’s safe, so attend neighborhood association or city council meetings to request proper upkeep of nearby sidewalks and paths. Also, consider gyms and tracks at local schools as options for physical activity after hours and on weekends.
Often, schools are willing to make gyms and equipment available on the weekends but simply need parents to volunteer to supervise, Brown says” (Payne, 2010). This avenue of taking facilities that already exist and adding in a safety factor so that they may be used more often could reach into a vast majority of neighborhoods and schools that are currently excluding physical education programs. This seemingly mundane action by a few sets of determined parents could catch on and create new and exciting ways in which physical activities could be introduced to children.
In today’s day and age of electronics, technological advances in this area continue to rise at record numbers. Features and upgrades to many electronic devices are geared toward a more convenient, user friendly target market. Such markets, unfortunately from a health perspective, are focused on our children. Convenient and satisfying methods of entertainment, such as television, movies, video games, talking/texting on cellular phones, computers, etc. far outweigh pure physical activity and exercise. Parents’ lack of control in these areas, as opposed to physical exercise, is a factor in childhood obesity.
Children would rather be sedentary playing electronic games on a television, cellular phone or computer, as opposed to playing games requiring physical exercise, such as hide and seek or kickball . “The media may shape children’s food choices and caloric intake, including exposing children to persuasive messages about food, cuing them to eat, and depressing satiety cues of eating while viewing. According to estimates by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), children between 2 and 11 years are exposed to 25,600 advertisements per year, of which 5,500 (or 15 per day) are for food or beverages.
A 2009 content analysis of foods advertised during children’s television programming revealed that most foods marketed to children are high in salt, sugar, and fat and low in nutritional value, and that healthy food are virtually invisible” (Jordan, 2010). This barrage of brain-altering subliminal messaging towards newly forming minds lends credence to how other areas of technology are creating pathways to enter impressionable youths. We live in a world that is technology driven in which new devices are created frequently to make life more convenient.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that television viewing by children older than two years be limited to two hours per day or less avoided altogether for children younger than two years. Surveys of United States parents found that most families do not adhere to these recommendations” (Jordan, 2010). These families that provide this amount of television viewing for their children use it as a virtual nanny to keep the child entertained and distracted throughout the day. In today’s health conscious society, there are many reasonable alternatives to just keeping a child zoned out in front of various electronic devices.
One such alternative that is catching on with many families is the Nintendo Wii. “The AHA and Nintendo recently teamed up to promote the use of the Wii Fit to help Americans meet recommended physical activity guidelines. The goal of the partnership is to teach people how so-called ‘active-play’ video games encourage regular exercise. If you’re having a tough time getting your child to play outside, consider buying a video game that requires the child to get moving, Brown suggests” (Payne, 2010). The use of this new video game device has provided many families with not only an opportunity to exercise, but to also interact as a family unit.
Interacting together provides an environment that can create future positive habits that might help in the obesity battle. Following recent studies on childhood obesity, it has been found that “In the United States, childhood obesity is on the rise; the percentage of obese children aged 6 to 11 more than doubled in the past two decades, while the percentage of obese adolescents aged 12 to 19 more than tripled, during the same period as well” (Li & Hooker, 2010). Medical contributors to childhood obesity, such as genetics and/or heredity, are considered uncontrollable and unchangeable to the health and well-being of a child.
The imbalance between calories consumed and calories used can result from the influences and interactions of a number of factors, including genetic, behavioral, and environmental factors. Studies indicate that certain genetic characteristics may increase an individual’s susceptibility to excess body weight. However, this genetic susceptibility may need to exist in conjunction with contributing environmental and behavioral factors (such as a high-calorie food supply and minimal physical activity) to have a significant effect on weight.
Genetic factors alone can play a role in specific cases of obesity” (CDC, 2009). Battling all these convenience issues will prove to be a lengthy social problem to be solved, but for the sake of future generations of children that will probably be the first to not outlive their parents, it is one that should have the highest priority. Parents establishing controls over guidelines set forth and constant monitoring of such to decrease childhood obesity is not a “sprint”, but more comparable to a “marathon”.
This requires lifestyle changes both for the parent and the child. Constant monitoring on the parent’s part, along with both parent and child “staying the course” now will produce dividends for the future of a healthy America. We are all creatures of habit. In the end, the goal should always be for these changes to become second nature. We live in a society driven by a constant; change. Growth and expansion will continue to generate new technological advances, with downfalls associated.
One such downfall, the “convenience factor” (convenient stores for junk food, convenient to watch television, play video games, watch a movie, talk or text on a cellular phone as opposed to physical exercise, convenient for parents to stop by fast food as opposed to healthy meals) will have a direct correlation between parental decisions and the health of children for future generations. Lack of parental controls in these areas in conjunction with the “convenience factor” will produce childhood obesity cases at record numbers. This increasingly growing disease will continue to be so if society does not stop being so convenient.