Video Games and Obesity Essay

October 22, 2007 Video Games and Obesity In just two decades, the prevalence of obesity doubled for U. S. children ages 6 to 11, and tripled for American teenagers (Childhood Obesity). Obesity is an excessive accumulation of fat causing a person to become overweight. It is a serious and growing health problem, especially for kids. One major factor to the problem of children becoming obese is, video games. Video games have advanced dramatically over the years.

From hitting a ball back and forth in the game “Pong,” and eating little dots in the game “Pac Man,” to first person shooters, and sport simulation games that look like you’re watching a game on TV. Even within the past six years, video games have advanced a lot. Games are now playable online against anyone around the world. Because of this, video games are becoming more and more popular, and kids are spending lots of time in front of the television, playing video games. This is causing kids to gain a lot of weight, and becoming obese. Genetics, high intake of calories, and lack of exercise, all contribute to childhood obesity as well.

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Children, whose parents are overweight, have a greater chance of becoming overweight then a child who has average sized parents. The rise of fast foods that are extremely high in fat, do not help either. Fast foods are a big part of American culture, and many people, especially kids, eat lots of fast food. Sedentary activities however, do not burn off any calories. These activities are the biggest reason why kids are becoming obese. William Higinbotham created the first video game ever in 1958. His game, called “Tennis for Two,” was created and played on a Brookhaven National Laboratory oscilloscope.

In 1962, Steve Russell invented “Space War”. “Space War,” was the first game intended for computer use. Russell used a MIT PDP-1 mainframe computer to design his game (Bellis). In 1967, Ralph Baer wrote the first video game played on a television set, a game called Chase. Ralph Baer was then part of Sanders Associates, a military electronics firm. Ralph Baer first conceived of his idea in 1951 while working for Loral, a television company (Bellis). In 1972, the first commercial video game console that could be played in the home, the Odyssey was released by Magnavox and designed by Ralph Baer.

The game machine was originally designed while Ralph Baer was still at Sanders Associates in 1966; Baer managed to gain his legal rights to the machine after Sanders Associates rejected it. The Odyssey came programmed with twelve games (Bellis). Today video games are way more advanced. With the latest systems Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and the Nintendo Wii, video game systems are going beyond just playing games. They have practically turned into computers. You can now store videos and music on your game console, and even chat with friends online anywhere around the world.

Not mention, play games with them online, and the games have become very realistic. The players on the game look like actual people, and the detail of everything you see on screen is amazing. Video games have even become portable. In 1989, Nintendo made the first portable gaming system, the Game Boy. The screen was very small, and it displayed no color. Today’s portable systems, Playstation Portable, and Nintendo DS, are very advanced. The Playstation Portable is capable of playing games, watching movies, listening to music, storing pictures, searching the web, and even playing online with anyone around the world.

The Nintendo DS has two screens, one of which is a touch screen, it has a built in microphone, and is also playable online. These advancements have made the video game industry, bigger then the music, and movie industry. Before video games were around, children spent most if not all there time doing more physical activities for entertainment. Playing sports, playing tag, riding bikes, throwing a football, etc. These were the types of activities children would take part in during there free time. It was rare to see a child overweight in the early and mid 1900’s. The percentage of children, who were obese in 1974, was approximately 9. percent. In 2002 the percentage of children who were obese rose to a 15. 1 percent (Child Obesity). Its only getting worse, especially with today’s “next generation” systems. Video games are only growing in popularity, and as they become more popular, kids are becoming less active, and obesity is growing. Researchers found that each hour the children played video games doubled the likelihood that the child was obese (Warner). This is because children lack exercise by sitting on the couch playing video games. The researchers found that children who do not play video games had only a 6 percent chance of being overweight.

Those who played an hour of games per day saw their chances rise to 9 percent. Two hours a day bumped that to 17 percent. And three hours of gaming per day resulted in a 23 percent chance the child would be overweight (Morris). Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin surveyed almost 3,000 children ages 1 to 12, recording their habits and calculating body mass indices. They found the children who played video games, which are considered sedentary activities, were more likely to be overweight than children who only watched television and didn’t play video games (Study Links Childhood Obesity to Video Games).

The study suggested that the heavier children spent more time in sedentary activities than thinner kids did. Children with a lower body mass were more likely to use computers for non-game purposes, and their video game usage varied (Study Links Childhood Obesity to Video Games). They said overweight children are more sedentary and have fewer friends so they may simply find themselves with more free time on their hands, which they then fill with video games. This implies that playing video games could be a result of obesity. Kids need to become more active because obesity is very difficult to treat once it has been established.

Obesity is a major health issue that can lead to heart disease and early death. Spending hours on the couch in front of the television playing video games is one of the main reasons children are becoming obese. In addition to increasing the risk of obesity in adulthood, childhood obesity is the leading cause of pediatric hypertension, is associated with Type II diabetes mellitus, increases the risk of coronary heart disease, increases stress on the weight-bearing joints, lowers self-esteem, and affects relationships with peers (Childhood Obesity).

Some authorities feel that social and psychological problems are the most significant consequences of obesity in children (Childhood Obesity). It is important to become more physically involved because it not only keeps you healthier and in shape, but it also helps improve your social status, because your more involved with other people if you take part in a physical activity. Video games can cause kids to become less social, because they are spending most of their time by themselves playing a game. They should be outdoors more, playing basketball, riding bikes, running around, playing catch, etc, whatever gets them more involved physically.

However, video games are starting to become more physical. The game “Dance Dance Revolution,” is a great game that involves a lot of physical activity because you have to dance on a pad with arrows, and the screen tells you which arrow to hit with your foot. Also the new Nintendo Wii, is a great video game console that involves a lot of physical movement because the controllers are designed in such a way, where they have to be moved around a lot, and sports games on the Nintendo Wii allow you to be very active because games such as baseball or golf are played using the actual motion of swinging a golf club or baseball bat.

So video games are on the verge of becoming more physical which is good, but for the most part, they only involve sitting on a couch, moving your thumbs. Obesity has raised a great amount in more recent years, and this is a major issue because obesity can cause heart disease and early death. Kids need to become more involved physically by simply going outside and playing a sport or riding a bike. Sitting around on the couch playing video games all day is not the way to go.

Parents are an important role in their children’s activities, and it is they who need to get their kids more involved with physical activity, and less time on the couch playing video games. Children need to have a healthy childhood in order to have a healthy adulthood. Obesity makes that very difficult to accomplish. Video games need to be excluded from children’s activities in order to be more active and healthier. Start now and get your kids involved more physically and less time playing video games, before they become obese.

Works Cited Bellis, Mary. “Computer and Video Game History. ” About. 3 Nov 2007 . “Child Obesity. ” CBS News. March 24, 2004. 24 Oct 2007 . “Childhood Obesity. ” kid source. 28 Oct 2007 . “Childhood Obesity. ” mayo clinic. March 31, 2006. 28 Oct 2007 . Kuittinen, Petri. “History of Video Games. ” 23 Oct 2007 . Morris, Chris. “This is Science? ” CNNmoney. July 6, 2004. 23 Oct 2007 “Study Links Childhood Obesity to Video Games. ” March 18, 2004. 28 Oct 2007 . Warner, Jennifer. “Children’s Health. ” webmd. June 2, 2004. 23 Oct 2007 .


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