Common Sense Media

Physical health: The media link to obesity, risky diets

How can your child's media consumption affect her health? It can contribute both to obesity and to eating disorders. Here's how parents can encourage a healthy media diet.

Media immersion absolutely affects our kids' physical health. It contributes to obesity, eating disorders, attention deficit disorders, addictive behaviors and declining levels of fitness. There's a direct link between hours of media consumed and calories consumed. Young girls — who see hundreds of thousands of TV and magazine ads about physical appearance — are more likely to practice risky dieting. Anorexic fashion icons and steroid-pumped sports stars can distort a sense of normal body image, which can lead to lower self-esteem and unhealthy decisions.

Why you should care:

Because one in three kids in this country is at risk for becoming obese. Because, due to obesity and inactivity, millions of kids ages 12-19 already have a pre-diabetic condition that puts them at risk for full-blown diabetes and cardiovascular problems as adults. Obesity is overtaking tobacco as the No. 1 killer in the nation. On the other end of the spectrum, super-skinny models and celebrities set unrealistic and unhealthy beauty standards, adding to the already overwhelming pressure to be thin or buff. In fact, one in five American girls will experience an eating disorder. Distorted perceptions of beauty can set the stage for misusing diet or body-building products and developing eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia.

Some facts you should know:

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Common Sense Media is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping parents make informed media and entertainment choices for their families.