Video: Using technology to fight childhood obesity

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    >>> sleeplessness.

    >>> startling new numbers tonight on childhood obesity in this country. a kaiser permanent in any event study shows kids may have a life span 10 to 20 years shorter than their parents because of adverse effects of obesity. 7.3% of boys and 5.5% of girls fall into the heaviest category. 12% of black teenage girls and 11% of hispanic teenage boys are considered extremely obese. those troubling numbers lead us to our lifeline report on a new effort to get kids at the risk of obesity to turn their lives around. it's using technology, often a big contributor to their sedentary ways to get them up and moving. here is chief science correspondent robert bazell .

    >> reporter: this girl is a cheerleader. this kind of physical activity, experts say, is one of the critical solutions to the enormous problem of obesity in kids. she and her friends , like most american teens, spend time not exercising, but texting on cell phones , video games , in front of computers and tvs. using all sorts of technology that keeps them from being active. a team at usc is trying to take advantage of that.

    >> we are recruiting technology which is part of the obesity problem to fight obesity.

    >> reporter: cell phones and computers are coming together. the key is to start with the most familiar device.

    >> cell phones are everywhere. it's one global device. it crossed every socioeconomic status across the world.

    >> reporter: here is how the system called "know me" works. the volunteer teenager wears a portable monitor that sends information on her heart rate to a computer. if the volunteer is inactive, the researcher sets the kid on the cell phone with instructions to get moving. what should the message be? the scientists held group sessions with the kids to find the best wording.

    >> get off your butt.

    >> reporter: they are willing to accept those messages?

    >> apparently.

    >> reporter: she likes getting those messages.

    >> to be able to tell if i'm active or not active is pretty cool.

    >> reporter: that's not like your mom nagging you?

    >> no. it's different.

    >> reporter: the system is new. researchers have no results yet. they are already moving forward adding a gps-like feature that detects too much time in fast food restaurants , all part of a new high tech attack on extra weight. robert bazell , nbc news, los angeles .

    >>> and for more how to fight childhood obesity check our website nightly.msnbc.com.

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