“It’s time for the food industry to clean up its act and not advertise junk food to young children. Just by banning ads for fast food…we could decrease obesity and overweight by 17 percent.” This is the statement that Dr. Victor Strasburger made this week on behalf of the American Academy of Pediatrics as reported in the Huffington Post.
Strasburger and the other 65,000 physicians that make up the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) are calling for a ban against fast food and junk food companies’ ads that air during children’s programming.
Whether the ads are to blame or not, the fact that the childhood obesity rates are going up is indisputable. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have concluded that more than one in six children and teenagers are obese. This is a 300% increase from one generation ago.
The doctors are obviously responding to a very serious problem, but could the ads really be that influential on kids’ habits?
The AAP reported that the nation spends more than $110 billion on fast food every year. That’s “more than is spent on higher education, computers, or cars,” Dr. Strasburger pointed out. Obviously our spending patterns are reflecting the effectiveness of marketing, but is it the ads that are making our kids fat? No, it’s not fair to say that they ads alone are the culprit.
The AAP points out that the heavy amount of what they call, “screen time” is a major contributor. “Screen time” does include the ad exposure, but it also includes sedentary activity and habits, which are easily understood causes of obesity.
The AAP is calling for direct action and not just raising up this common debate once again. It’s important to remember that these poor obese children are not being forced to sit in front of the TV screen. They are not being pressured to eat the fast food they see the ads for. These children presumably are under the care of an adult who is allowing this unfortunate behavior continue.
While I think it’s great to forbid the advertisement of unhealthy food to my little boy during Saturday morning cartoons, I mostly want the ads gone because I don’t want to hear him beg for the newest sugar snack or the awesome bigger kid’s meal anymore. I welcomed my responsibilities the minute I found out I was going to be a parent. Of course, it’s not always easy, but it’s always worth the trouble. I now proudly endure the times he whines because we’re turning off the TV and going for a bike ride. Or I tally my mean mommy points when he exclaims, “I’m the ONLY kid who hasn’t had those cartoon fruit snacks.” I know that I can not be the ONLY mean parent out there, I just know it.
So, perhaps the banning of ads will stop some from buying their children such large quantities of fast food and junk food. If that’s the result, that’s great. Until the proposed ban takes place, maybe we should just run ads about how to be a more responsible parent? Just maybe?