AAP Points Finger At Advertising For Childhood Obesity

5 July 2011


Apparently it’s Childhood Obesity Week this week, so it only follows that there’ll be a trickle of headlines about obesity, parenting, television and junk food in the media this week.  In time for all that, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a Policy Statement last week titled “Children, Adolescents, Obesity and the Media”.

The statement says pretty much everything you imagine it would say:

Junk food and fast food ads increase a child's desire to eat those types of foods, studies show that watching TV increases snacking and children who stay up late at night watching TV or playing video games are raising their risk of obesity due to their lack of sleep.

While I’m inclined to mock the need for a study that in my view equates to common sense, they did come up with some very interesting findings:

  • Children and teens who watch more TV tend to consume more calories or eat higher-fat diets, drink more sodas, and eat fewer fruits and vegetables.
  • Some researchers feel that eating while watching TV suppresses cues of satiety, which leads to overeating. (We already know that TV watching by children under 2 isn’t good for brain development, so it make sense that it will cause different reactions elsewhere).
  • Others believe that viewers are ‘primed’ to choose unhealthy foods as a consequence of watching advertising for foods high in fat, salt, sugar and low in nutritional content.
  • More than 80% of all advertisements (in America. We don’t watch children’s channels with advertising, so I don’t know what it’s like in the UK, but I suspect it’s not as bad!) in children’s programming are for fast foods or snacks and for every hour that children watch TV they see an estimated 11 food advertisements.

According to the AAP parents can help curb their child’s weight by discussing food advertising and monitoring TV viewing, limiting a child’s time in front of a TV and avoiding TV and internet in a child’s room.

Taking away a child’s viewing privileges is really seen more as a punishment than a good thing, however, so you could, of course, cook a nutritious dinner, eat it at a table, do fun and active family activities and make it seems like something a family does rather than a chore. All the studies in the world won’t help though, unless we act like responsible adults and parents and use common sense, but I’m no scientist or researcher, so don’t quote me on that.

Image Source: Getty

TOPICS:   News and Recalls


  • Emma K.
    It does make sense though. It's only when I am sitting in front of the TV that I want to snack and snack because my hands have nothing to do. When gaming, my hands are busy so I don't want to snack at all, so I don't quite agree with that part.
  • debadwolff
    and that's why we don't have a tv (although as a special treat (about an hour a week) the kids watch iplayer on the internet!) :) Yep sounds harsh but then I get to see them build a tree house in the garden with the neighbours (who also don't have a tv), ride bikes in the rain, have loads of friends over and make crazy things with boxes etc. amazingly enough none of these kids are fat/obese/rotund - nope there isn't a nice way to say it. sorry!
  • Luschka O.
    Yet, oddly, when I smoked, I could still smoke 40 a night during an AVP or AoE marathon! But I totally agree about the hands being busy.
  • Luschka O.
    I agree. I grew up without TV (we had one, but it lived in my folks cupboard and only came out for video nights - during which we'd eat sugary popcorn and fish and chips!!) and we found other forms of entertainment. We also had 8 months this last year without a TV, and I kind of regret that we got one again.
  • Lynley O.
    I don't agree. I think it comes down to parenting regardless of TV. You can feel smug about it but I grew up with no curbs on our TV watching at all and still built tree houses, climbed trees, spend all day on my bike or at the swimming pool. The difference between me as a nine year old and nine year old's today is that I could go out and do all that on my own. Neither my son or his friends are obese or have any fitness problems. A fabulous park near us with a great adventure playground is a huge help since many of his friends don't have gardens - they live in flats. Spending on parks is the first thing to suffer from the govt cutbacks. So what are kids going to do in a couple of years time when the parks are too run down and unpleasant to play in?
  • debadwolff
    you're absolutely right. we lived in holland in a flat with no garden with our two oldest children and i could take them to the park (there was a mini-park sandpit etc for every block of flats). Then we moved to london where we are lucky enough to have a garden. but if we didn't i wouldn't let my kids go to the park. the one nearest to us had it's playground burnt to the ground recently and it's always been a hangout for gangs. the others are not much better.

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