Children who skip meals to be slim

July 26, 2007 - 0:0

NO wonder parents say they can’t understand their children.

Young people admit they worry about their weight, skip meals to look good and even carry weapons for protection. But, in contrast, many also have part-time jobs and diligently do their homework on time. This confusing snapshot of life as a 10 to 15-year-old has been compiled after questioning nearly 70,000 youngsters. Nearly six in 10 girls between 12 and 15 said they would like to lose weight, compared to about a third of boys. Worryingly, 27 per cent of year ten girls had skipped breakfast the day they were questioned and, of that proportion, one in four had had nothing for lunch the previous day. Researchers from the Schools Health Education Unit discovered that less fresh fruit but more vegetables are eaten as pupils grow older, and up to 23 per cent of children said they ate three portions of fruit and vegetables regularly. Disturbingly, 23 per cent of girls aged 14 and 15 had been drunk in the past week, compared with 20 per cent of boys. Up to 23 per cent of the 12 to 15-year-old girls reported feeling “quite uneasy” or “very uneasy” on their last visit to a doctor. One in four girls aged 12 and 13 said they sometimes feared going to school because of bullying, and a similar proportion of boys aged 14 and 15 said they kept bullying problems to themselves. A total of 18 per cent of the 14 to 15-year-old boys were “fairly sure” or “certain” their friends carry weapons for protection. Up to 66 per cent of children aged 10 to 15 live with both parents – a drop of around 10 per cent since 1990 – and up to 47 per cent walk part of the way to school. More girls than boys did homework on the evening before the survey, and they tended to spend longer at it. Around 37 per cent of boys aged 12 to 15 did no homework. Up to 16 per cent of boys spent more than three hours playing computer games after school the previous day and eight in 10 boys aged 14 to 15 looked at the internet without adult supervision. A total of 44 per cent of 10 and 11-year-old girls read a book for enjoyment, but that dropped by half among girls aged 14 and 15. The percentage of young people with a regular job rises from around 27 per cent at 12 and 13 to 40 per cent at 14 and 15. Nearly a third of youngsters aged 14 and 15 receive more than £10-a-week pocket money, with boys better savers than girls. Dr David Regis, the unit’s research manager, said: “This research shows teenagers have complex, changing lives which most of them get through quite well.