Can We Stop Blaming Games For Childhood Obesity Now?

The United States has been growing increasingly more obese over the past few decades, and video games are often cited as one of the key factors behind this meteoric rise in pounds-per-person. Now researchers say that isn't necessarily true.

Video games have taken a lot of flak for making people obese, not just in the U.S. but around the globe. The World Health Organization has pointed the finger in the past, and First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move campaign cited the release of the PlayStation as a major event in the timeline of our nation's growing bellies.

Is it true? Do video games make us fat, or do they just give us something to do while we get fat? Do we need to get fat at all?

A study out of Michigan State University in East Lansing casts some doubt on the assumption that our favorite hobby and fat are closely related.

The study followed a group of 12-year-olds for a period of three years, subjecting the children and their parents to six major survey waves. Researchers tracked internet, video game, and cellphone use in the kids, keeping track of their exam scores, height, weight, race and socioeconomic status. The survey also measured the children's reading, mathematics, visuospatial recognition and self-esteem.

This data was used to attempt to predict the growing children's body mass index, or BMI.

The children in the group spent more time playing video games than they did talking on the cellphone or surfing the internet, but researchers say this was not a strong predictor of their ending BMI. Playing games doesn't automatically equal fat.

Race, age, and social status were stronger predictors overall.

It's not all rosy for the gaming industry, however. While students that played games displayed heightened visuospatial skills (hand-eye coordination), they were also more prone to having poor grades and low self-esteem.

Maybe if everyone stopped calling them fat...

Video games may not boost teenage obesity after all [New Scientist]