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In our world today, there is nothing that occupies a kids’ time more than media — not family, not school, not extra-curricular activities.  A recent Kaiser Family Foundation study showed that students (between the ages of 8-and-18) spend an average of 53 hours on media each week — more time than most adults spend at their full time jobs.

While it’s a certainly a parent’s prerogative to “turn off” these portals or limit the time spent using them, it’s also imperative that we don’t completely de-value the social, fun and learning opportunities which can couple these virtual worlds.

In a post I recently wrote entitled, “Empower Kids With Service To Their Community,” I asserted that social interactions (such as project-based learning and community service) are the keys to unlocking a successful 2.0 migration for our classrooms, libraries and youth groups.  Social interactions are defined as the actions two or more people do collaboratively to affect each other’s experiences.

Interestingly,  the need for social interaction is a signature of our “Homelanders” (GenZ), whose generational characteristics keep them in-tune with technology and innately eco-conscious.  On a positive side, having grown-up in a world of anti-discrimination and pro-family legislation, it is believed that GenZ will be more diversity aware.  On a negative side, their willingness to experience the world virtually suggests GenZ will be the most unhealthy and least physically active generation yet.

Study after study has focused on determining how much media has played a role in the nation’s dramatically increasing rates of childhood obesity.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the percentage of obese children ages 6 to 11 increased from 6.5% in 1980 to 19.6% in 2008 and the percentage of obese children ages 12 to 19 increased from 5.0% to 18.1%

Three years ago, a report was issued by Nick Christakis (Harvard School of Public Health) and James Fowler (Univ. of Calif., San Diego), which revealed that weight gain by a friend increases your odds of obesity by 57%.  Further, they asserted, the risk of obesity rises 171% for the closest mutual friendships.

This implies that social norms — shared experiences and similar environments — might be more important in weight gain than underlying strict biologic or genetic factors.

If this is true, then perhaps not only do we need to heighten our investment in physical activities as a group, but also in the “play your way to fitness” products such as Zamzee, Playnormous and Wii which serve to use social and peer-group efforts to reduce obesity and spark a kid’s interest in fitness.

This year First Lady Michelle Obama launched the Let’s Move nationwide initiative to teach GenZ how to reverse this dangerous trend.  Last year, KooDooZ formed a strategic partnership with O2 MAX Fitness, a youth fitness media company whose mission is to make fitness cool, fun and social.  Together we produced an interactive city-walk entitled “Tour De Fitness” (TDF).  Similar to the Let’s Move campaign, TDF shows kids new ways to eat healthy and exercise, all while having fun with their family and friends.

Here’s a video overview of TDF ‘09:

The purpose of TDF is to raise awareness for the importance of both youth health and youth wellness.  Obesity impacts more than health — social isolation, guilt and even self-loathing can become wellness issues that follow obese people through their lives.  Fortunately, obesity is both preventable and reversible.  Even small changes to diet and exercise routines can positively affect health and wellness.

Families in greater Los Angeles can meet and learn from Daniella Monet, star of Nickelodeon’s Victorious, who will be hosting TDF’10 on August 14th, 2010.

Kids who would like to plan a family fitness event in their own community can learn the steps to do it in the KooDooZ Fitness Challenge!

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