The fact that childhood obesity is a growing epidemic is a point rarely refuted. A cursory scroll through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website provides some undeniable, and frightening, data:

  • Approximately 17% (or 12.5 million) of children and adolescents aged 2—19 years are obese.
  • Since 1980, obesity prevalence among children and adolescents has almost tripled.
  • While everyone seems to be in agreement that childhood obesity is an issue of growing importance, no one seems to agree on the cause. Many blame the growing prevalence of fast-food restaurants. Others blame agressive marketing that targets children in an effort to create life-long customers for unhealthy products. Still others point the finger at the school system, at parents, at manufacturers, and the list goes on. One factor that’s currently in the spotlight? Media consumption.

    According to a recently published NPR article, pediatricians are recommending a diet low in media as a means of preventing childhood obesity.

    First, at each well-child visit, pediatricians should ask these two questions:

    How much time are you spending in front of a screen each day?

    Is there a TV or device with an Internet connection in your bedroom?

    The answers to these questions could allow doctors to identify inactivity before its negative effects can take their toll. So how much tv time is too much?

    Kids, the pediatricians say, shouldn’t spend more than 2 hours a day plopped down in front of the computer, TV or other glowing device. The littlest kids — those 2 and under — shouldn’t watch any TV at all.

    For concerned parents, there is some good news: children’s programming is evolving to address the issue. Programs like Dance-A-Lot Robot and Imagination Movers are aimed at getting children off of  the couch and onto their feet by incorporating dances and other exercise. So if your little one has trouble peeling away from the screen, use programs like these to make sure they get exercise while they watch.

    Of course children will make the transition from couch potato to active kid a lot easier if you provide them with fun activities, and responsible ways for them to enjoy media. Check out our Funded Projects page to learn about some of the programs available in your area and stay tuned for events and program updates through the Spark Blog!