Girls playing deadly games

By Melanie Maeseele

CHILDREN as young as five are telling their parents they are fat and refusing to get undressed because they feel they are overweight.

Gatton mother of six Dianne Castledine, yesterday said she was shocked when she found her healthy and active nine-year-old daughter playing a calorie-counting computer game, available free off the internet.

The discovery fuelled her concerns that her daughter's remarks made by her daughter about being fat were generated by external factors.

"I admit I was taken aback at first when I saw what she was doing," Mrs Castledine said.

"I thought 'how ridiculous' and then I started to wonder what was happening in the world that caused the production of such games for young children."

She said she considered herself lucky that her daughter Rhominy was a "little naive" and did not understand the context of the game.

"Her naivety caused a concern when she misread the game and thought the more calories she 'ate' must mean she was the winner," Mrs Castledine said.

"Someone explained to her at school that if she ate too many calories she would get fat and now she is even more concerned about her weight."

Mrs Castledine, who maintains healthy eating habits at home, said she felt the game created unnecessary emphasis on weight.

"Children should be living a happy and carefree lifestyle," she said.

"She came home from school one day, where she had At school she heard there were some great kids' games to be played online. She found a site where there were a lot of games to choose from, all aimed at the five to 12 age bracket.

"The game gave the child a plate, and they would open a fridge and choose items out of it they would like to put on their plate. Each item is allocated a certain amount of calories and as the plate fills up, the calories get counted."

Mrs Castledine said her daughter, who weighs a mere 23kg and was about 130cm tall, was far from fat or obese yet regularly referred to herself as fat.

University of Southern Queensland nutrition lecturer Lisa Schubert said there could be repercussions of from children being taught about foods' caloric or kilojoule value at any age.

"An unnecessary emphasis on calorie counting is undesirable and counterproductive," she said.

"Exposure to this sort of information at a young age, in a game form or otherwise, reinforces an idea of food values that is based on their calorie density. This is highly simplistic."

Ms Schubert said it was important children were educated on positive food experiences.

Another woman told the QT her seven-year-old sister thought she was too fat to be seen undressed.

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