Do video games make kids fat?

Most experts agree that you should limit your child’s “screen time” (time spent in front of computers, TV and other electronic devices) to no more than a couple hours a day. Of course, most parents/children ignore this; the average child’s daily screen time roughly triples that amount. We also know that we’re experiencing an epidemic of childhood obesity in the United States. Which begs the obvious question: Are television, video games and computers making kids fat? The answer is not what you think. Unless you think that the answer is no. In which case the answer is exactly what you think. From

Such studies are complicated by the fact that even regular video games—the ones so often blamed for the present rates of childhood obesity—may not be as passive as you think. A decade ago, a physiologist named Arlette Perry at the University of Miami worried that her 10-year-old son Thomas was spending a lot of time with a controller in his hand. To measure the effects of chronic gaming, she studied her son and 20 other children as they played Tekken 3 on a Sony PlayStation in her lab. She found that the fighting game increased the kids’ heart rates and blood pressure to the same extent as walking at 3 miles per hour. Children burned roughly twice as many calories playing Tekken 3 as they did sitting in one place, which translates to an extra 40 to 80 calories burned every hour. In other words, this traditional, “passive” video game was itself providing children with a form of exercise.

If video games aren’t the problem, then what about television?

The drastic reduction in television-watching made for only a very modest difference: Weight gains in the experimental group were reduced by an average of only one pound.

I once finished an entire 82-game season of “Bulls vs. Blazers” on Sega Genesis in one day, and I weighed about 98 pounds back then, so if you’re looking for evidence that video games don’t make kids overweight, look no further than yours truly. Your weight is almost completely dependent on what you eat. Exercise is great, and has many other side benefits, but if you’re not eating properly, no amount of exercise is going to make you slim. I know it sounds pejorative or downright insulting to tell overweight children to “stop eating,” but in this case, the simplest solution is also the correct one. I also realize that telling your son to put down the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups is easier said than done. Luckily I have a solution. We know that kids are playing tons of video games, and we know that they’re eating poorly. So let’s create a video game called “Wii Protein,” where kids get bonus points for eating chicken breast and egg whites. It’ll keep the kids entertained, and it will help them increase their life expectancy well into their 90s. Of course they’ll waste all that extra time playing video games, but still.


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