Your Kids’ Video Games Will Not Encourage Healthy Eating

Dec 08

I read a tweet this morning: “Video games enourage kids to eat healthy food”

Wow!  That sounds pretty cool.  Apparently I’m not the only mom/dad/video game addict who wanted to tout this news to assuage my guilt.  As I scrolled down the twitter feed I read another ten or so tweets proclaiming the same great news.  Just as there is an army of anti-video game militants crying afoul the impact of digital playing on youth, there is a gaggle of video game advocates seeking any opportunity to say, “Hey, look! Video games are good for us after all!”  (Not unlike the boozer who reminds everyone at the party that drinking red wine on a daily basis is good for you, while he’s swilling vodka.)

I’m caught a little between those two sentiments, making me somewhat schizophrenic in my acceptance and/or hatred of video games.  It can be summed up quite neatly:  When I watch my kids running around outside among the trees and snow, a warm comfort fills my soul and a wistful smile forms on my lips.  However, when I watch my boys playing video games, I set the timer to ensure they don’t stare at that blasted screen too long, then quickly make good use of the free time it avails me, reminding myself that they’re having fun

So, yes – I think video games have a somewhat negative impact on childhood.  But, given that I allow them to play quite regularly, I’m also happy to learn of the “many benefits” that this new “hobby” offers our youngest generation of learners.  And now I learn that video games can encourage my kids to eat more fruits and vegetables?  Cool!

I’m not sure how many tweeters actually read the link about this breakthrough study, but I did.  And the headline does not clearly explain the reality of the findings.  The lead author of the study, Dr. Tom Baranowski of Baylor College of Medicine, states that the video games that increased vegetable and fruit consumption were, in fact, designed to do that.  These therapeutic games were not “commercial quality video games.”  They were games that nobody has ever heard of – Escape from Diab and Nanoswarm: Invasion from Inner Space.  Anybody’s kids write that on their Christmas list?

In other words, don’t expect your kids to crave broccoli spears after an hour at Kirby’s Epic Yarn.  But wait!  That’s not all.  The kids’ level of physical activity in the study still remained below the minimum recommended standards.  Ouch.

Video games, it appears, are not the glorified new path to stellar parenting.  Did anyone really think it was?  Turns out, we have to keep our kids healthy and active the old fashioned way: getting their butts out the door and force-feeding them natural foods that do not come wrapped in cellophane.  Darn.

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