Advertisers spend $1.5 billion annually to market to youth. Sixty percent of this budget is used to advertise high calorie, low nutrition foods and beverages, also known as “obesogenic” or obesity causing foods. Television does contribute to overweight children, however, not in the way one would expect.
It would appear that the increase in childhood obesity relates to sedentary activities, like watching television. To the contrary, research of more than 2000 children in a study at the University of California Los Angeles, found it wasn’t the amount of TV children watched, but the amount of advertising viewed that is the real culprit.
Everyday we are bombarded with ads. Unfortunately for children, they are a primary, influencial, and future market for advertisers, and the target for misguided information that takes advantage of their undeveloped cognitive abilities. For example, Lapierre, Vaala and Linebarger (2011), found that five year old children chose cereal with recognizable characters on the packaging over any other factor. In addition, these cereals promoted with characters are usually of high sugar content.
Advertisers are good at getting around the self-regulations that have been imposed on them, mixing images and content that do not match, implying food is healthy when in reality it’s loaded with sugar and fat. As a matter of fact California consumers just won a case against Nutella for this very practice. Maybe its time for us to switch channels and look at the underlying problem of childhood obesity, unhealthy habits that are contributing to a generation of children who are now acquiring adult diseases.
As parents we need to be media literate for the sake of our children and encourage healthy foods. We can’t keep our kids away from advertisers’ influence, it’s everywhere. However, we can be vigilant in helping them to learn about the importance of giving their growing bodies nutritious food. Because their lives depend on it!
© 2012 Cathi Curen, Holistic Children Radio