Video Games Exercise the Obesity Lobby; This Christmas the Video Games Industry Is Expected to Sell Millions of Video Games. with a Large Proportion of Those Likely to Be Gifts for Children, Child Development Specialist James Taylor Looks at Whether the Gaming Industry Can Be Held Accountable for the Rising Childhood Obesity Epidemic in the UK: The Thursday Essay
Byline: James Taylor
ONE of the biggest public health challenges in the 21st century is growing obesity in children. With one in four homes in the UK owning a games console, there has been much said about whether the popularity of video and computer games can be blamed for the rising obesity levels among children in the UK. It use to be too much TV that was to blame, but now with the widespread availability of consoles that let you play and interact online without leaving your house, it's now video games that seem to be public enemy number one.
It's claimed that, on present trends, around a third of children in Britain are overweight or obese and that by 2020 the proportion of boys aged two to 11 who will be overweight or obese will be 30%. Although much of this can be blamed on diet, a sedentary lifestyle is a contributing factor. With new games scheduled to come out this Christmas and additional temptation on the market to stay indoors, children are spending more and more time in front of a screen and in a virtual world instead of exercising and getting active.
It is understandable therefore that people question whether the video game phenomenon is to blame for the inactive lifestyles that children of the 21st century now lead.
Some of the big names in the console industry are trying to combat the bad image of computer and video games by introducing games which encourage movement and let players interact more.
Take Nintendo Wii. There are now "sports" games on the market that let you jump up and down and throw a virtual javelin, as well as "balance boards" which you stand on and try different activities such as skiing, balance training and step aerobics. So at least the tide is turning slightly in a healthy direction.
But it isn't easy making a computer game more active, as they are always going to be associated with sitting in front of a screen.
Some polls point to the parents as a cause for the lack of activity among children. British families are increasingly living a couch potato lifestyle. Research carried out by health and care company Bupa found that more than half (61%) of British teenagers think they don't spend enough time being active with their family with most blaming their parents for their family's inactivity with a third of them citing their parents' lack of time as the reason.
Even more worrying is that over a third of Britain's parents were unaware of the recommended activity levels for children. According to leading health specialists, children should be participating in at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day, but at least four out of 10 boys and six out of 10 girls fail to reach this target. …