Thursday, May 8, 2008

Parents Universal Resource Experts (Sue Scheff) Junk Food Commercials by Connect with Kids

“Parents cannot overlook the persuasiveness of TV. [Children] don’t understand that this is a show, this is a commercial, and they are trying to sell you a product. It all runs together.”

– Rachel Brandeis, registered dietician, American Dietetic Association

The number of overweight kids in the U.S. has doubled since 1980, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Some blame the long, inactive hours that children spend watching TV, but new research suggests the reason may be less about how much television children are watching and more about what they’re watching.

Ever since 7-year-old Jake was a toddler, if he saw something on TV that he wanted, “he would point to stuff and say ‘Mama, Mama,’” says Eve Jones, Jake’s mother.

As if on cue, Jake yells from in front of the television, “Mommy! Mommy! Come here fast! I want you to look at this!”

“Sometimes it’s food, sometimes it’s toys,” says Jones.

And when it’s food, says Jones, “It’s always not the healthiest stuff in the world, it’s the stuff with all the food dye, the bright colored stuff, the stuff with sugar in it.”

Many experts believe that the more television kids watch, the more likely they are to be overweight. But is that because they get too little exercise? Not necessarily, says the newest research.

According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, 9 out of 10 food advertisements on Saturday morning TV are for foods low in nutrients and/or high in fat and sugar.

“I think it is a huge impact and parents cannot overlook the persuasiveness of TV,” says Rachel Brandeis, a registered dietician with the American Dietetic Association. “[Children] don’t understand that this is a show, this is a commercial, and they are trying to sell you a product. It all runs together.”

“Whenever I see people eat something or drink something I go, ‘Mom, can I have something to eat? I’m kind of hungry,’” says Jake.

Today, kids see 40,000 commercials a year – twice the amount of commercials kids saw a generation ago. While current federal guidelines limit the number of commercials that can run during television programs aimed children under the age of 12, experts say parents can also help reduce the cause-and-effect of junk food commercials by limiting screen time and making healthy food choices.

“Remember, you are in charge of what you bring into the home. You can say ‘no,’” says Brandeis.

Tips for Parents

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP):

Children should watch no more than one to two hours of television per day. Parents should watch with children to help interpret messages.

Parents should explain that the purpose of commercials is to make people want things.

Limit the number of commercials your child sees by watching public television stations. You can also record programs without the commercials or buy/rent children's DVDs.

Teach your children to recognize marketing. You can ask the following questions: What is the product being advertised? How are they trying to get you to buy the product? Is there something about the product they are not telling you?

Teach children to read nutritional labels. The FDA regulates the claims manufacturers make on food labels. Here are some common terms as defined by the FDA:

Low-Fat means three grams or less per serving.
Low-Saturated Fat means one gram or less per serving.
Low-Sodium means 140 mg or less per serving.
Low-Calorie means 40 calories or less per serving.
Good source means that one serving of a food contains 10 to 19 percent of the recommended daily allowance for a particular nutrient.

Reduced means that a nutritionally altered product contains at least 25 percent less of a nutrient or calories than the regular, or reference, product.

Light means a nutritionally altered product contains one-third fewer calories or half the fat of the reference food

American Academy of Pediatrics
U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
American Dietetic Association