How Media Contribute to Poor Health Decisions

junk food TV ad
Advertisements, TV shows, the Internet, and other media can affect how you choose to eat and spend your time. Many ads try to persuade you to eat high-fat foods and sugary drinks. Others may try to sell you products, like video games. Be aware of some of the tricks ads use to pressure you:

■ An ad may show a group of teens eating food or using a product to make you think all teens are or should be doing the same. The ad may even use phrases such as “all teens need” or “all teens are.”

■ Advertisers sometimes show famous athletes using or recommending a product because they think you will want to buy products that your favorite stars use.

■ Ads often use cartoon figures to make a food or activity look exciting and teen-friendly.

BE MEDIA SMART!!!
Every year, an estimated $2 billion is spent on food marketing targeted at children. The vast majority of these advertisements are for unhealthy products such as sweetened cereals, candy, snack foods, and sugary drinks. This means that kids are receiving a lot of messages that contradict the healthy food habits parents, caregivers and educators are trying to teach.

Studies show that seeing this food advertising impacts children’s food choices, makes them eat more regardless of hunger and even has the potential to influence lifelong eating behaviors. Brand loyalty can be established as early as age 2, but children don’t have the ability to understand the intent of advertising until at least age 8.

Parents and educators know that exercise and healthy eating can protect children from childhood obesity and poor health outcomes, but it’s easy to forget that kids’ daily exposure to unhealthy messaging can make them take a step back in integrating healthy habits into their lives. According to research from the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, the messages kids receive from food advertising “encourages children to pester their parents to buy products, promotes snacking between meals, and portrays positive outcomes from consuming high-calorie, nutritionally-poor foods.”

So what can we do? Below are four easy ways adults can help protect kids from unhealthy food marketing.

1. Cut down on kids’ screen time.

Marketers have unique ways of reaching children with junk food advertising. Television is the biggest culprit, but companies are getting more creative – reaching kids with child-friendly websites, mobile apps, and product placement in video games and movies. To help reduce the number of unhealthy messages children see, limit screen time to when you can watch with the child and talk about any food advertising that might pop up. You can also record favorite TV shows to watch later when you can fast-forward through the commercials.

2. Be the best healthy role model you can

While it is nearly impossible to eliminate all unhealthy messaging from kid’s lives, parents and educators can model healthy behaviors and show kids how eating nutritious foods and exercising can be an enjoyable and natural part of their everyday lives. The more healthy messages children receive, the more likely these messages are to displace the unhealthy messages they receive from food marketers.

3. Use child-targeted food marketing as a teaching moment

Start talking to children about advertising as early as possible. If a child asks for a product after seeing advertising, use it as an opportunity to teach the child what advertising is, what it means, and how it works.

4. Be an advocate

The school environment is increasingly becoming an easy place for marketers to target children with food advertising. Posters, scoreboards with food company logos, reward coupons, food fundraisers, and food sponsored curriculum materials are just some of the ways that children are targeted during the school day. Does your child’s school or childcare facility have a wellness policy that prohibits this type of marketing? If not, don’t be afraid to suggest it.
On any matter relating to your health or well-being, please check with an appropriate health professional.
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