Young people in Northern Ireland have been branded the “junk food generation which can’t see beyond the burger box” according to a new survey which reveals that the majority of them are ignorant to the long term consequences of eating badly.
The British Heart Foundation (BHF) has recently published the findings of a UK-wide survey which found that 73 per cent of children are unaware that eating badly can risk your life.
Nearly half (45 per cent) of all eight to 15-year-olds questioned thought that the most dangerous side effects of eating junk food were rotting teeth, getting spots, weight gain or surprisingly making them unpopular.
The charity released the new survey results to coincide with its latest Food4Thought initiative and new online game called the ‘Yoobot’ which aims to help children make informed and healthier choices when it comes to food.
The Yoobot is the Heart Foundation’s latest weapon in the fight against childhood obesity, which allows children to play with their future, helping them understand the long term effects of a poor diet.
Users can create their own Yoobot by logging onto www.yoobot.co.uk where they have a chance to produce a mini version of themselves which comes to life on screen. The choices they make for their Yoobot, ranging from the food it eats to the exercise it does, has a direct impact upon the lifespan and wellbeing of their mini-me. To make the game more appealing to younger users each Yoobot has many appealing and not-so appealing habits which range from break dancing to breaking wind.
The Yoobot doesn't just live on the website; it actually talks to its creator throughout the day using texts and e-mail. It will complain if it's hungry, ask for junk food and generally make itself a part of the user’s life.
The BHF research also found that the majority of children are so oblivious to the impact obesity can have on their lives that more than half (56 per cent) predict that even though they eat junk food they will go on and live to be over 80 and a further 11 per cent believe they will live to be more than 100.
Mike Knapton, BHF director of prevention and care at the BHF says “Today’s junk food generation can’t see beyond the burger box. They are missing the fact that eating unhealthily can have dire consequences on their long-term health.”
He adds, “The Yoobot is an innovative way for children to explore the effects of eating a diet of junk food. The clock is ticking on the obesity time bomb and it is now more important than ever for children to be educated enough to take control of their diets.”
In the province, some 59 per cent of adults and 26 per cent of children are now classified as either obese or overweight with latest predictions show that two thirds of all children will be overweight or obese by 2050.
BHF Northern Ireland unveiled the Yoobot in Belfast with the aim of helping youngsters understand the long-term effects of a poor diet.
Aodan Curley (13) is on the Northern Ireland Children’s Commissioner’s Youth Panel and shares his feelings on the new initiative.
“Young people should be more aware of what they are eating. The Yoobot will help young people understand the dangers of a poor diet”, says Aodan. “I hope it will encourage manufacturers to take responsibility and include healthier ingredients and more clearly label their foods.”
The Food4Thought campaign is also backed by the Children’s Commissioner Patricia Lewsley.
“Children have told me they are concerned about all aspects of their health and wellbeing", says Patricia. "The Yoobots are an excellent way to reinforce to children and young people the consequences of a poor diet through innovative web technology.”
For further information, go to yoobot.co.uk.