The social media universe is becoming an increasingly important source of information especially for kids
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There are various perspectives on the issue of childhood obesity, and there are definitely some rich and powerful organizations with a vested interest in swaying public opinion.  However, as awareness of the problems associated with childhood obesity continues to grow, the social media universe is becoming an increasingly important source of information – especially for kids.

There’s good in this.  According to the Centers for Disease Control, childhood obesity has more than tripled in the last 30 years, and between 1980 and 2008 the percentage of children who were obese grew from 7% to more than 20%.  In addition, the effects of childhood obesity can be severe, including:

  • Increased risk factors for heart disease
  • Increased likeliness of developing diabetes or pre-diabetes
  • Greater risk of joint problems and sleep apnea
  • Greater risk of being obese as an adult

The mainstream discussion of obesity, unfortunately, is largely influenced by special interest groups that have a lot to gain by obscuring what constitutes a good diet.  Fast food companies, for example, make billions of dollars every year selling products that are anything but healthy.

And because fast food companies are such important customers for agricultural corporations, America’s farmers have vested interest in keeping the country fat.

Various social media sites provide a way around the mainstream media and, as a consequence, a way around the mainstream discussion.

For example, the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, a school for holistic nutrition that might not be mentioned on the nightly news, has over 61,000 likes on facebook.  Other programs that deviate from the accepted concepts of good nutrition are also gaining widespread attention.

And as young America becomes increasingly weight-conscious, they are communicating more about eating right.  Sites like foresquare allow them to check in at restaurants they like, which helps to bring health-conscious young diners to healthy restaurants.

However, there is a flip side.  The marketing-heavy dynamic of Facebook in particular has turned social networking into a playpen for new-media marketers.

This has caused an explosion of multilevel marketing concepts, many of which focus on health and nutrition.  Some of these new diets are effective, whereas others can represent a real health risk.

For parents who see their kids getting caught up in dieting trends, it’s important to keep the basics of good health in mind.  What are those basics?

  • Eat enough protein
  • Eat vegetables
  • Drink water
  • Get sufficient exercise

It’s also important to remember that there are no shortcuts to good health and that “health” is a lifestyle more than it is a state of being.  When kids want to start a diet that involves taking pills or that promises to melt the fat off, there is probably a catch.  And while obesity is a certainly a problem, rapid weight loss and becoming too thin can have a negative health impact as well.

Source: social media today