The other day I posted to facebook a mini rant about people driving foolishly.  Next thing I know there’s a comment war about how “technology and video games” have made our kids fat .  Indeed.  Let’s look at this.

I don’t buy it.  I had the first generation of console games – not an Atari, a Colecovision, and damn did I love Donkey Kong.   At the mall and movie theatres and Kwik Stop I begged for quarters and later, hacked Super Mario Brothers and several other arcade games so I could play for hours.   I loved sugar on my cereal, soft drinks, and Halloween was a buffet.  I loved parades because the clowns threw out candy.  I had a TV in my room – black and white, but still.  Never got fat, and I don’t recall my friends being heavy either.  The fat kids got picked on.

The difference?  Mom.  She made sure I always had a bike.  She sent me to summer camp, nature camp, got me on a swim team, into Tae Kwon Do, and I rode my bike to soccer practice.  It was just normal.  The bike rack at my elementary school was full of bikes, many not even locked. Why steal a kids bike?  And most other moms were like this too. We felt sorry for the kids whose parents wouldn’t let them play with kids they didn’t know. It would have been embarrassing for mom to pick me up at soccer practice.

But things are different today.  Dangers lurk the streets.  White vans with kidnappers and pedophiles follow little girls and boys when they walk home from school. Drug dealers are everywhere, and in one instance of poor judgement, your little Suzie darling will turn into a meth addicted child prostitute.  If little Johnny plays in the park after school, he may miss his afternoon medications that keep his fragile personality from falling into full blown ADD.  And next thing you know, he is sporting a 9mm, has seven tattoos and poppin’ caps at cops.

This is, of course, almost utter nonsense.  In my childhood we didn’t have meth or crack.  But heroin and cocaine were plenty common, PCP and Crank. LSD.   We didn’t have child porn on the internet, but kids did get kidnapped. But with modern media reaching into every corner of our lives, what would once have been a local issue – with police and volunteers searching for missing kids and at most a face on a milk carton, we now have instantaneous Amber Alerts that reach across the country in seconds.  It glues people to their TV,  that drives ratings, ratings drive advertisers, and that means money.  Videos of gang beatings now go viral on Youtube.   Did this kind of thing happen in  my childhood? Sure, in the sense the gangs existed and people got robbed and beaten. But the whole world didn’t see it.  Fear is a commodity.  As I type this, a scrolling alert passed by on the nightly news that someone “attempted” to kidnap an eight year old girl, and the entire Bay Area saw that, and will see it again and again tonight.  In my childhood that would never have been broadcast on the news unless it was a serious repeated event.

And nothing scares a parent more than the thought that their child could come to harm.  So, what to do?  Drive them to school and back again.  Drive them to soccer practice, to the pool, to whatever activities they are part of.  Keep them safe from “The Street”.

Once they are safe at home, oh no, don’t let them go outside and play – they might never come back.

And then there is guilt.  Not sure of the numbers, but I am sure that many more families have two working parents, and this means less time with the kids.  Easy way to lessen this guilt is a video game that the kids beg them for, because all the other kids have one.  And while you’re at it, give that kid some snacks. There, now little Suzie is happy and safe. Whew.  Time to relax and hang out with the hubby or wife; it’s easier to sneak upstairs and fool around if you know your kids are safely posted to the TV or computer.

Pervasive video gaming and TV / computer time is a symptom, not a cause of the fat kids syndrome. In my humble opinion.


  1. unitedcats says:

    Modern media knows what buttons to push, and are happy to do so for ratings, social harm be damned. And they aint just guessing, marketing is a science and an increasingly effective one as psychology untangles how our minds work. And yes, parents these days both wildly over-estimate the dangers out there, and worse, think that avoiding all risk is “protecting” their kid. Strange times.

  2. […] see Fat Kids (part one, although at the time  I didn’t realize a sequel was in the works) Share […]

  3. Wohh just what I was searching for, regards for posting.

  4. jfeden4 says:

    You’re probably right – but the snacks and food in general are a big part of it. They pump everything full of high fructose corn syrup – product of the “industrial food system” that started up in the 50s… they have to sell all that corn which they have to grow ‘cuz they have all that fertilizer to sell ‘cuz they had all that excess ammonium nitrate left over after WWII and no more explosives to make from it…

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