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Seeing Is Believing: TV Takes Toll On Children’s Eating Habits

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By Mia Bolaris-Forget

Worried about the influences your children are being exposed to via the media. Well, now it seems that you need to be concerned for more than just sexual and violent content and images. In fact, researchers suggest that you may need to start monitoring commercials as well.

Studies suggest that in food commercials aimed at youngsters, over 40 percent of the items shown can be classified as “junk food”, including a bevy of candy, snacks and fast food, and virtually zero fresh fruits, veggies, poultry or seafood. And, with recent research revealing that today’s youth seems to be significantly more obese and sedentary than their parents’ generation and risks living out a shorter life span, this news can be extremely troubling for some.

The study that examined 13 television networks between May and September of 2005, noted 2,613 commercials focusing on food and beverages aimed at children, tweens, and teens.

Researchers revealed that children in age groups between 8 and 12 were exposed to the most food ad on television, an average of 21 daily or 7,600 annually. Teens saw somewhat fewer ads per day, about 17 or 6,000 annually. And, children ages 2-7 were exposed to the least, about 12 daily or 4, 400 a year.

Experts go on to asset that the most frequently targeted group, those between the ages 8 and 12 are at a crucial age and time in their life where they are beginning to decipher information and make decisions for themselves. And, they add, all this “adverse” advertising may just be setting them up for failure as they approach maturity and adulthood since their bad habits are being reinforced and will continue to be set.

Experts feel so strongly about this message that back in November 10 key players in the food and beverage industry, to take on a new voluntary code of ethics for advertising, especially to tweens and teens. And, companies agrees to allocate half their advertising to promoting healthier nutritional choices and dietary habits for children. But, the rules have not yet gone into effect.

The study also shows the amount of public service announcements that children are exposed to and which affect childhood obesity rates, etc., noting that they are exposed to relatively few. In fact, children under 8 view one public service announcement to every 26 food ads. Preteens to one in every 48 food ads and the ratio for teens is one (PSA) to every 130 food ads.

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