Report Cards About Your Kids' Weight Might Do More Harm Than Good

child weight

Parents of school age kids know that there is an obesity epidemic happening in the United States. More and more children are spending less time outside and more time in front of a screen. Thanks to busy work schedules and increased extra-curricular schedules, meal times often consist of convenient fast food or food-on-the-go.

Schools are now becoming more involved in not only a child's education, but their health as well. According to Parents.com, over half of the US states have laws that require schools to do BMI testing on their students. BMI testing, which stands for body mass index, measures a person's body composition. It then determines if a child is "overweight" or "underweight." These reports are then sent to the parents with the hopes that it will encourage a change in the home lifestyle if indicated needed by the report card.

The only problem is that many parents don't actually believe the report cards, and some suggest these reports may be doing more harm than good. Science Daily reported that research proves more than half of parents who receive these report cards characterizing their children into weight categories aren't actually accurate. Research shows that only 13 percent of parents who were told their child was either 'obese' or 'at risk' actually made a change to their lifestyle and eating habits.

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Some research even suggests that reporting on a child's BMI at school can cause more harm than good. Fitting in at school can be hard enough for many children, but to subject them to testing that doesn't take in to account their genetics, build, athletic history or family life and lumps them in to categories like, underweight, normal weight, overweight, or obese opens up an entirely new world of concerns for children.

child BMI report card
Credit: iStock / kwanchaichaiudom

BMI testing in schools isn't overly supported by parents either. Research shows that only 45 percent of parents feel that schools should be reporting their child's BMI to them, which 33 percent feel that parents should be able to provide the BMI to the schools. There's also concern by researchers that parents aren't even able to fully comprehend the information they're receiving when they get their child's BMI report card.

"Though parents support receiving BMI report cards, they may not accurately interpret the information they receive," wrote the researchers. "As more children and adolescents in the United States become overweight, fewer parents may recognize their child as being overweight or obese."

Ideally, the researchers feel that if schools are going to be doing BMI testing then they need to take on the responsibility of providing follow up guidance to those families who may need help.

"Schools are a critical link in improving the health of children through programs such as BMI health reports," wrote the researchers. "However, if schools take on the responsibility of sharing BMI report cards with parents, they must also be willing to provide some support and act as a resource for parents."

Do you think schools should be responsible for BMI testing, or is that something that should only be shared between a family and their health care professional?

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