Recreation and Sport Studies

Studying, Experiencing and Facilitating Kinesiology, Recreation and Sport through Wellness and Physical Activity

Technology’s influence on childhood obesity

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Jamie Buote and Desiray Wells

Technology is more advanced than it ever has been before as we have witnessed growing up. Technology can have a very positive influence on our society as a whole but also can have a very negative impact on society if not used in moderation.

Technology can indeed affect one’s lifestyle and health. It seems like the facts are all there but parents are negligent when it comes to reducing the amount of screen time their children watch per day. From the ages five to seventeen one third of Canadians are obese. If we look at the statistics globally there is an estimated 43 million children under the age of 5 who were diagnosed with obesity in 2010. This large number is a 60 percent increase since 1990.

So what are children doing different these days than in the past? Well according the American Academy of Pediatrics children and adolescents can spend up to 7 hours of TV, internet usage and video games per day. But the recommended time for this is only 1-2 hours of screen time a day! This is a huge difference. All these extra hours of screen time is taking away from quality family time, reading, homework and exercise.

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With obesity comes serious consequences, obesity can harm nearly every system in a person’s body including heart, lungs, muscles and bones, kidneys and digestive tract as well as the hormones that control blood sugar and puberty. These are just a few of the health risks that one is exposed to when they are obese. The main cause of obesity is sedentary living and poor nutrition and these causes are all increased by the use of technology. It has been proven that when an individual is watching television or playing video games they are more likely to be sedentary for longer periods of time along with increased snacking habits of high fat, high sugar, and high sodium foods. This can put someone on a fast track to obesity where they will be exposed to these health risks.

When focusing on youth diagnosed with obesity, a lot of responsibility fall on the parents and how well they educate their children about proper nutrition, the benefits of physical activity and how too much technology and screen time can influence to poor health.

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A parent’s time is now more demanding than ever. We feel this is the reason why parents are turning to technology to keep their children busy and quiet. Youth would rather spend time playing video games or watching TV then to go outside and enjoy unstructured play.   Teaching our children that this is okay is only going to have a direct negative influence on them with unhealthy behaviors in the future.

To prevent childhood obesity the National Association for Sport and Physical Education recommends that children get at least one hour of moderated to physical activity a day. While the American College of Sports Medicine recommends that children are to spend no more than 2 hours a day on technology related endeavours.

We conducted an informal survey at a gymnastics facility involving youth ages 9-15:

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This highlights how much technology is negatively influencing youth behaviour.  Kids are spending too much time in front of screens and less time outdoors being social. Change must happen and the first way to start is by re-evaluating our usage of technology.

Author: UNB_KINRSS

UNB Faculty of Kinesiology: Bachelor of Recreation & Sports Studies, MBA in Sport & Recreation Management, and Master of Arts in Sport & Recreation Studies

2 thoughts on “Technology’s influence on childhood obesity

  1. I agree with you. As much as technology has help us, technology is dooming our younger generation. i believe it’s all about the moderation of technology. I think technology should not be use for kids, especially for the first ten years of their life. this could allow them to be able to experience the great outdoor and learn proper movement skills. As well, it gives the children a chance to develop their skills without relying on tech. However, this could hinder their literacy in school ( being slower at writing rather then typing), I think it will have a benefit for them as they get older and write papers and study. As of after age 10, its about teaching them a balance in their life and staying healthy, and not over consuming technology. I believe that their should be courses in school that talks about the dimensions of wellness, and this can expand the idea of moderation of technology.

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  2. I think fighting this in a traditional or “back in my day” perspective is an uphill battle. Speaking from my Psyc degree, human are designed to focus on novelty. Stemming from a sense of self preservation, it makes sense to focus on the unfamiliar and stimulating, while conserving energy. We just haven’t caught up, evolutionary speaking, to handle the excessive sedentary lifestyle (or the fast food)- culture evolves faster than physical evolution.

    Perhaps, as a potential business, a new gym model (or a general recreation facility) might focus on simulated gaming activity, such as skiing, cycling races, etc. If you look at some cardio equipment (like treadmills), many have either a television screen or a screen showing a chosen scenery. People want that novelty. There’s also potential for physical activity to be included with the presence of the Oculus Rift, putting the gamer “in the situation” as much as they can be. In making the situation feel real, they might feel motivated to engage the activity without realizing they’re being active.

    It doesn’t have to, or should, replace traditional means of physical exercise, but it’s a trend that isn’t going away so there needs to be a focus on collaboration with technology rather than fighting it.

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