Let me preface this by saying that some of this is personal opinion and some of it is fact. Why don’t we start at the beginning?
I’m probably gonna date myself here a bit but back when I was growing up there was a certain disdain in the borgo household for fast food. Sure, every now and then we’d order us out some Chinese or have a pizza delivered as a treat but that was usually done from local proprietors rather than some innocuous chain of restaurants. I guess my parents just felt safer knowing who was cooking their food and supporting a local business rather than shelling out their hard earned money to some major corporation.
I grew up long before the advent of video games and hand held devices that would allow me to keep in contact with my friends on a constant basis. I’m old enough to remember when you had to actually get up to change the channel on the tv set when there were only about five channels to choose from and sometimes I can still hear my fathers voice calling me from my room to do just that. Shit, I even had to ask for “permission” to use the phone (try that today and you’d probably be accused of child abuse) and any conversation that I had was held well within earshot of my parents. It was then that they would practically throw me out of the house and encourage me to go hang out with my friends. Maybe that’s because they wanted some “alone time” or maybe it was because I was being a fucking pest and kept looking to them to entertain me.
Either way, most of my buddies that I grew up with were faced with the same circumstances and all we really needed to keep us entertained was a ball, a wall, a stick, some open space or any combination thereof. We’d invent our own things to do and when that didn’t work there was always some organized league that you could join where teams were formed and new friendships and rivalries were made.
It was some good shit back then, especially when they changed the streetlights and we could play at night. Usually the games were ended because of a parental curfew and they’d resume where they left off the next day. We’d all go home tired and hungry, gulp down a sandwich and a snack and call it a night.
I don’t think that’s the case anymore and here’s why.
The numbers speak for themselves. Back in the 80’s maybe 6 or 7 percent of kids were considered overweight. Today, here in the States that number is around 20 percent and rising. I’m sure that some of that is due to genetics but lets face it, for whatever reason kids today live a more sedentary lifestyle. More on that in a bit…
For many kids, fast food is the norm rather than the exception. Just look at how the fast food industry has boomed over the last 30 years and how they’ve targeted their marketing to get kids “hooked” at any early age and keep them as customers as they reach adulthood.
From where I sit, too many kids have their faces glued to monitors or glowing rectangles of some kind and they only physical exercise they really get is with their fingers.
Today, I go by the local parks and they seem to be devoid of any activity. Baseball fields are abandoned, basketball courts are silent and football and soccer fields look desolate. To me, there’s something inherently sad about a park with no kids in it.
Is my kid overweight?
Many parents go back and forth on that one since kids grow pretty darn quickly and little Johnny or little Suzie might shed some pounds in a matter of months. If your really concerned about it, I’d recommend consulting your family physician.
If my kid is obese, what are the health risks?
For starters, most kids that are obese as children will carry those extra pounds into adulthood. That’s when they become more susceptible to such things as high blood pressure, cardiac disease, diabetes, bone and joint disease/disorder, sleep apnea and a host of other assorted ailments. And that’s just the physical aspects.
Kids that are obese are often targets of ridicule from their not obese peers and may be ostracized or excluded from other social events.
Will diet and exercise help?
Well it sure can’t hurt. Substitute all those preprocessed foods for some fresh veggies or fruits. Get them out of the house and have them work up a good sweat at least a couple of times a week. You’d be surprised. Exercise at an early age can become contagious as they grow up and good habits that are formed early in life might just carry on through to adulthood.
Look, there’s no denying that the so called computer age has brought us many new and wondrous things that keep us amused, entertained and informed. I’m not trying to lay the blame on any one specific issue for the drastic jump in childhood obesity rates over the past 30 or so years. That’d be trying to oversimplify a complicated issue. But, for all of those things that the computer age has given us, it has certainly has been a factor in taking away something I took for granted growing up.
There was nothing like the warm summer sun and a park full of the sound of kids just having a good time.
For the personal stuff it was the streets and parks that adorned my home town of Bay Ridge, Brooklyn and the childhood friends that I grew up with. I hope their memories of our times together are as fond and as lasting as mine. Come to think of it, can you really fall in love with a video game or other hand held device in the same way you can with your childhood memories?
For the factual stuff, you can look here.