These days it is rare for me to sit and watch a TV show while it is playing live. I have a PVR and record most of my shows, and watch them when I have time. This usually means that I can, and will, fast forward through the commercials. Yesterday was a rare day when I actually watched the show as it played, and because of that, I had to sit through the commercials. It again reminded me that most of the commercials are geared towards food, specifically refined processed foods and fast food restaurants. Even knowing that these are the wrong foods for me, the commercials will often evoke a response. Especially if they are showing happy families enjoying the food together. As an nutritionist and informed and educated adult, I am drawn to these, so what must it be like to be a young child, pre-teen or teen watching these ads? And what must it be like to be a parent of a young child, continually having to combat these high pressure sales targeted to their children?

The expression “It takes a village to raise a child” came to mind. And today we are living in a global village. One of the biggest media in the global village is TV, and with that, all of the food ads targeting kids. Is this the village you want influencing your child?

A recent study in The Journal of Pediatrics found that obese children are more vulnerable to food advertising.

It stated “Rates of childhood obesity have tripled in the past 30 years, and food marketing has been implicated as one factor contributing to this trend” and that “Every year, companies spend more than $10 billion in the US marketing their food and beverages to children; 98% of the food products advertised to children on television are high in fat, sugar, or sodium.”

$10 billion dollars. Just marketing to children. It’s not just on TV either, children are bombarded by computer ads, billboards ads, and there are product placements in movies, sponsorships, cartoon characters, celebrity endorsements and marketing in schools.

How is a parent supposed to fight that?

While you can’t fight the media onslaught, (short of blindfolding your child), you can make a difference in your own home. In a recent Facebook conversation, the subject of good food choices came up, and the fact that people will use every excuse in the book to justify why they can’t eat well. This also applied to excuses as to why they can’t get young Johnny/Jenny to eat well. In a very frank response a good friend said “Child dangerously overweight, health in jeopardy? DON’T BUY THE SHIT. If you don’t buy it, they cannot eat it. Little Billy/Jennifer throws a fit over no more Happy Meals? TOUGH.”

And I have to say that I agree with her. You, as the parent and the adult, have control over what your children eat, up to a certain age. At that point, you have to trust that what you’ve taught them, sticks. Even with that trust, you still need to make sure that you are providing healthy options in your home. I am the parent of 2 young adults, 23 and 19, and they know that Mom’s fridge and pantry don’t contain any junk, and they eat what I serve.

As I mentioned, while you might not be able to fight the media onslaught, it’s good to know that restrictions of junk food ads have started. However, the industry is mostly self-regulated and loopholes and inconsistencies in the current rules mean that children are still exposed to too many junk food and drink ads and marketing promotions.

What can you do? Well, obviously tighter regulation is needed.

Did you know that the province of Quebec has had a 32-year ban on fast-food advertising to kids in electronic and print media? This has resulted in a 13 percent reduction in fast-food expenditures and an estimated 2 billion to 4 billion fewer calories consumed by children in the province. While the rest of Canada has been experiencing the same explosion in childhood obesity seen here in the United States, Quebec has the lowest childhood obesity rate in Canada.

Why don’t all the other provinces in Canada have this same type of ban? Ask your local Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) why? Petition your local print and electronic media to implement the ban.

What Other Countries are Doing to Regulate “Junk Food” Advertising Towards Children

United Kingdom: Children’s Food Bill – In November 2006, the Office of Communication announced that it would ban television advertisements for junk food before, during and after television programming aimed at ages 16 and under in the United Kingdom.

Sweden: All advertisements aimed at children 12 and under is banned, including fast food ads.

Malaysia: Fast food advertising during children’s television was banned in 2007.

What do you think? Do you think we need tighter regulation? What else can we do? Let us know in the user comments below.



Source by Patricia Eales

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