Just when you thought it was safe to plunk your kids down in front of the TV, there is new evidence that proves that being plopped down in front of the television to watch the high-powered marketing of fast food leads to, guess what?
“There is strong evidence that television advertising influences the diets of children,” said Dr. Michael McGinnis, a senior scholar at the Institute of Medicine, which conducted the review.
According to the study, TV promotions directly resulted in children ages 2 to 11 asking for products and labels they recognized. Children aged 4 and younger had trouble distinguishing between commercials and programming. And those eight and younger did not understand why there are commercials in the first place.
Here is the answer: last year, the food and beverage industry spent upwards of $11 billion in advertising, and $5 billion on television, mostly for high-calorie products with little nutritional value.
Here’s what we know: Parents, it is a constant struggle to keep kids’ diets healthy when they are constantly wooed on television as well as in markets via food manufacturers’ labels that have kids walking up and down the cereal aisles looking for the packages with toys in them, or wanting to go to McDonald’s because on TV that’s what normal kids do.
We know that advertising preys on our need to fit in and be liked. The fake world on TV presents what we all believe life should be like – for adults and children. Growing up with this false reality in their faces every day could, in fact, alter the way people go about their daily lives.
The report from the Institute of Medicine also recommended that Congress get involved if advertisers don’t cease and desist: “We think that the issues confronting the health and well-being of America’s children, particularly with respect to childhood obesity … require an ‘all hands on deck’ effort,” McGinnis told reporters.
According to a Reuters story, about 9 million kids and teens in the US are 16 percent obese, compared with 5 percent in the 1960s. Type 2 diabetes is also on the rise. The problem exists without question, but is going after the advertisers really the answer?
So many other things factor into obesity, like certain food additives such as high fructose corn syrup, and the cheap saturated fats they use. Ever try looking at the ingredients in Pringles?
But it isn’t only bad foods getting hyped – good foods don’t have enough people behind them making them more appealing to kids. It has to be a global effort to wipe out additives that ultimately kill people. Then again, tobacco kills people and it’s still widely available so don’t hold your breath that anything will be done. It comes down to parents. As usual.
One possible solution is the TIVO, or DVR, which can fast-forward through commercials. Most of the time, we do that in our house and commercials have been deemed “bad.” Still, the marketing seeps in. Our kids know their brand names and they know what society expects them to do: Spend their money on crap they don’t need. That’s the American way.
Advertising is everywhere, not just on TV. So even if television commercials pushed healthier foods (dream on!) parents have to face it elsewhere, even on cell phones. The bottom line is this: Television commercials are bad for kids in every way. But nothing is going to change. They will always be here. The best things parents and schools can do is educate kids on commercials, open their eyes to why the commercials happen in the first place, how it’s all about making money, and hope that America’s kids are raised with a more discerning eye. We are all born with these big brains, and we might as well learn to use them.
And nothing is going to change for any of us unless we get up off the couch and move our butts. Kids are no different than parents and with so many being driven here and there, fewer and fewer are running all of their energy out. Perhaps, if the government REALLY wants to get involved, it could require networks to promote more exercise programs that help kids get up and move around while they watch. They’d hate it so much they’d stop watching TV altogether. For a half hour at least. Until they could go plop back down and zone out.
Thursday, December 8
Ghost World (***), 8 p.m., IFC.
Tom Jones: The Legend, 8 p.m., KCET.
North by Northwest (****), 9 p.m., TCM.
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, 9:15 p.m., 9:30 p.m., KCET.
Thirteen Ghosts (*), 9 p.m., SCI FI.
Friday, December 9
Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (***), 8 p.m., TNT.
Prancer (**), 8 p.m., FAMILY.
I Want a Dog for Christmas, Charlie (***), 8 p.m., ABC.
Vanilla Sky (**), 8 p.m., BRAVO.
Saturday, December 10
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (***), 8 p.m., FAMILY.
It’s a Wonderful Life (****), 8 p.m., NBC.
Thelma and Louise (***), 8 p.m., OXYGEN.
Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas (**), 8:30 p.m., ABC.
Sunday, December 11
Dr. Wayne Dyer: The Power of Intention, 7:30 p.m., KCET.
Snow Day (**), 8 p.m., TBS.
Survivor: Guatemala – The Maya Empire, 8 p.m., CBS.
Meet the Parents (***), 9 p.m., USA.
Monday, December 12
Elton John: Red Piano, 8 p.m., NBC.
The Graduate (****), 8 p.m., AMC.
Toy Story (****), 8 p.m., DISNEY.
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (****), 8 p.m., FAMILY.
Tuesday, December 13
King Kong (****), the original 1933 film, 5 p.m. TMC
Casper’s Haunted Christmas, 7:30 p.m., TOON.
King Kong (***), first remake, with Jessica Lange, 8 p.m., AMC.
Phone Booth (**), 8 p.m., FX.
Frontline: The Persuaders, 9 p.m., KCET.
Wednesday, December 14
Christmas in Washington, 8 p.m., TNT.
Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas, 8 p.m., WB.
Glengarry Glen Ross (****), 8 p.m., IFC.
A Christmas Carol (***), from 1999, 9 p.m., TNT.