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TV Ads for Sugary Taunt & Tempt Our Unsuspecting Kids: More Than 40% of Commercials Push Candies, Snacks & Junk Food

Posted Dec 18 2008 8:11pm

Pity our poor, TV-watching kids. Just about every time they turn on the tube to watch their favorite shows, they're accosted by ads pushing one sugary food after another.

If they're not tormented by commercials trumpeting the scrumptious flavors of certain candies, then they're being nudged to become a fan of the newest sugary cereal.

And if they don't see ads for candies or cereals, then they're teased into submission to chomp some processed-carb crap snacks.

That's my rather casual summation on the largest study ever done of food advertised to children on TV.
The much-needed, landmark study, entitled " Food for Thought: Television Food Advertising to Children in the United States, was just released from the Kaiser Family Foundation.
More specifically, the study -- whose lead author is Walter Gantz, chairman of the Department of Communications at Indiana University -- found that:
  • Children aged 8 to 12 (they call them "tweens") see the most food ads on TV, an average of 21 ads a day, or more than 7,600 a year.
  • Teens see slightly fewer ads, about 17 a day, or more than 6,000 a year.
  • And children ages 2 to 7 see about 12 food ads a day, or 4,400 a year."

Not suprisingly, the study found that food was the top product advertised. Sure enough, of the food ads that target children or teens:

  • 34% are for candy and snacks.
  • 28% are for cereal.
  • 10% are for fast foods.

And we wonder why our kids are becoming moody, depressed, tired, irritable and fat?

Then, the Kaiser Foundation study found that:

  • A mere 4% are for dairy products and
  • 1% for fruit juices.

And get this: Of the 8,854 ads reviewed in the study, not one sinle ad targeting children or teens urged them to eat fruits or vegetables.

Duh! Small wonder that why our nation's kids aren't getting enough nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables.

But this "tween" category -- aged 8 to 12 -- appears to be the most vulnerable to these influence-generating ads.
The Kaiser Family Foundation issued the following statement:
"Children of all ages see thousands of food ads a year, but tweens see more than any other age group,” said Vicky Rideout, vice president and director of the Program for the Study of Entertainment Media and Health at the Kaiser Family Foundation. “Since tweens are at an age where they’re just becoming independent consumers, understanding what type of advertising they are exposed to is especially important.”
FYI, Walter Gantz the lead author and chairman of the Department of Communications at Indiana University.
I highly recommend that you also check out AP writer Kevin Freking's take on the study.
Also, make sure to read Nanci Hellmich's excellent summation of the study in USA Today. She also cites another major study, released December 2005 from the Institute of Medicine, which found that more than $10 billion each year is spent to market foods and beverages to children, "mostly," as she put it, "for products not considered nutritious." (I discussed the landmark study earlier.)
In particular, check out the quotes Nanci Hellmich got from Margo Wootan of the Center for the Science in the Public Interest and Daniel Jaffe of the Association of National Advertisers.
It'll be interesting to see what the industry now does -- other than become defensive -- now that this landmark study was released.
Again, I urge you to listen to the audio file here.
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