We all know that lack of activity and poor eating habits are causes of the childhood obesity problem, but how about the TV that kids are watching, most notably advertising for junk food and fast food that makes kids want to eat more of the bad stuff?
The American Academy of Pediatrics has released a new policy statement called “Children, Adolescents, Obesity and the Media,” which points to junk food / fast food advertising as one cause of childhood obesity. Snacking while watching TV and not getting enough sleep nightly due to TV viewing and playing video games are also part of the statement.
Lead author of the policy statement, Dr.Victor Strasburger, a member of the AAP Council on Communications and Media, maintains that “We’ve created a perfect storm for childhood obesity – media, advertising, and inactivity. American society couldn’t do a worse job at the moment of keeping children fit and healthy – too much TV, too many food ads, not enough exercise, and not enough sleep.”
Of course, the usual recommendations for limiting screen time and not allowing kids to have TVs or internet connections in their bedrooms are mentioned as solutions to curb some of the problems. They also recommend talking with children about good nutrition and food advertising.
Strasburger shares that “Thirty years ago, the federal government ruled that young children are psychologically defenseless against advertising. Now, kids see 5,000 to 10,000 food ads per year, most of them for junk food and fast food.”
While I agree that limiting screen time for video games, computers and TV and getting children more active are solid practices, I think pointing the blame at TV ads is a bit of a weak argument. Shouldn’t we, as parents, be taking the responsibility for our children and their health? Blaming advertising for kids’ poor eating habits doesn’t hold much water. After all, it’s the parents that ultimately decide what their kids eat.
The bottom line is to teach your children solid healthy habits about food and exercise and get your kids up off the couch or away from the computer.
A big help in our home is to lead by example. I find my kids make healthier choices because they see me making healthy choices.
While TV ads can certainly make sugary cereals and snacks look pretty irresistible to kids, it’s up to the parents to make the decisions about what to buy for their children.