In the Wall Street Journal, Philip Howard explains how kids are getting fat (and thus at risk for obesity-related diseases and death) by staying indoors rather than playing outside. “One in six children in America is obese, and many of them will face a lifetime of chronic illness. According to the Center for Disease Control, this problem would basically cure itself if children engaged in the informal outdoor activities that used to be normal.”
Howard chronicles the elimination of risky but fun things kids love, like merry-go-rounds, sledding, and high diving-boards. He has noted elsewhere how such sources of childhood fun often draw lottery-sized lawsuits when injuries occur. These fun activities are now being replaced by blander, duller, and safer activities that involve little physical exertion.
Another factor is overprotective parents. Parents are so afraid of the virtually non-existent risk that their child will be abducted by strangers that they don’t let them play outside unsupervised — which, as a practical matter, means keeping them indoors, since busy parents don’t have lots of time to spend outside. Overprotective “helicopter parents” are bad for their children’s health.