This epidemic, known as childhood obesity, began in 1980; this is when the percentage of obese children in America began to rise significantly (Cuttler). But as of 2002, that percentage has doubled from 7% to 16% in children between six and eleven years of age and for twelve to nineteen year olds the percentage has more than tripled from 5% to 16% (“Childhood Obesity”). So now people are wondering what happened? What has changed over the last 30 – 40 years that has caused the children of America to put on so much excess weight?
Fashion has changed since the 80s; the music has too. America has seen several different presidents in the last 30 years and there have been new laws passed in Congress. But there is one change that has truly influenced how we live in this country: the media.
There are two ways that the media has an effect on childhood obesity: children are spending more time watching television instead of being physically active (Juster, Ono, and Stafford) and many of the ads on the television are advertising for foods that are high in calories and low in nutritional value (“Childhood Obesity”). This surplus of food advertisements in the media has a huge influence on a child’s food intake. The research that has been accumulating since the 1980s suggests there is a definite link between children’s viewing of food advertisements and the increased rate of childhood obesity (“Childhood Obesity”). This link is made even clearer once you realize that the average child is now seeing more than 40,000 commercials every year compared to 20,000 in the 1970s (Roberts and Foehr).
But somehow there are many people who still believe that the media is not the main cause. Many people in society believe that the only cause of the obesity epidemic is that kids are not getting enough physical activity (Mota). The point that these studies are missing is what the children are doing instead of getting physical activity; they are sitting at home watching TV for four or more hours each day (Roberts and Foehr). And while they are watching those four hours of TV they are being bombarded with media that is all about food (and it’s usually not promoting fruits and vegetables) (“Childhood Obesity”).
So next time you go to watch TV, pay attention to what you are being shown and determine whether or not you want the children of America to be exposed to such high concentrations of food related media.