America's Teenagers--Myths and Realities: Media Images, Schooling, and the Social Costs of Careless Indifference

By Sharon L. Nichols; Thomas L. Good | Go to book overview

Chapter 6
Healthy Living and Decision Making

School tells parents: Kids are fat.

—Washington Post headline, March 2002

In 1999, 13 % of children aged 6 to 11 years and 14 % of adolescents aged 12 to 19 years in the United States were overweight. This percentage has nearly tripled for adolescents in the past 2 decades.

—Office of the Surgeon General 1

It has been suggested that obesity-related costs 'may outstrip the costs of cigarette smoking, so I don't think we have a choice but to find ways to deal with it.'

—Dr. Marc Jacobson, Pediatrician, New York City 2

The health of the next generation is at serious risk because teens don't receive enough guidance or support for healthy living. Adults are often too complacent about improving teens' health because they think young people are apathetic, and when adults do want good things for youth, some of their goals may undermine teens' healthy development. For example, there are health costs when success and achievement are overemphasized. Is there underemphasis on helping youth cope and make good decisions? Are rising obesity 3 and depression 4 rates related to exaggerated pressures to be successful in so many areas (school, work, community service, etc.) and inadequate adult guidance in dealing with these multiple pressures?

Youth's problems and shortcomings have always been overemphasized. Many programs aimed at helping youth target specific problem behaviors (interventions to stop smoking behavior, incarceration and rehabilitation for criminal behavior)—and some of these programs are good. But there

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