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LET'S HEAR IT FOR THOSE MEAN MOMS

Sunday is Mother's Day, and so there's lots of talk this weekend about sweet, saintly matrons.

As for me, I'm singing the praises of mean moms.

No, I am not advocating any kind of nastiness. I am saluting all you moms (and dads) who bravely withstand the slings and arrows of small tyrants who want what they want and want it right this minute. Parents who stand firm against eye-rolling, foot-stomping, screechy offspring demanding to know: "Why are you so mean?''

I thought fondly of my own mean mom the other day when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention came out with an interesting report that looks at a bunch of everyday items that could be fueling childhood obesity.

Factors such as whether sugary drinks are sold in schools, whether schools allow advertising and sales of junk food, whether states regulate how much time kids in day care can spend plopped in front of the TV.

All the stuff that makes some people scream about big government, but that public health experts say bears a strong correlation to obesity, inactivity and diseases like Type 2 diabetes.

The report also looked at what happens at home. How many kids have a TV in their bedroom and how many hours they watch it. How many kids don't eat meals with their families most days. How many sugary sodas kids drink.

All the stuff my mean mom monitored pretty carefully.

So, how did Florida do?

Not so hot. A stunning 61 percent of children ages 6 to 17 have a TV in their bedrooms. So nobody should be surprised that 38 percent of Florida high school students watch more than three hours of TV a day. Who has time to study? Or play outside?

On the brighter side, more than 70 percent of Florida teens eat a meal with their family most days of the week, better than the national average. We're just about average when it comes to teens drinking more than one sugary soda a day (29 percent).

Why all the number-crunching? Because, as my mom knew and the CDC confirms, parents can help kids eat healthier, move more, spend more time with family and less time with TV.

Government and communities also should do more to help parents, the report notes. Restricting junk food and sodas in schools, enacting policies to assure that people in low-income neighborhoods don't have to travel far for healthy groceries, and limiting screen time in child care settings are all areas Florida could improve on.

In the meantime, parents who hold their kids to healthier standards deserve our support and respect. Here's to you, on Mother's Day and every day.

- Charlotte can be reached at sutton@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8425.

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ON THE WEB

Check out the Children's Food Environment State Indicator Report at www.cdc.gov/obesity/downloads/ChildrensFoodEnvironment.pdf.

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