Personally, I hate the ads because they are so LOUD. Muting them was my sanity saver. I don’t really pay much attention to what they are selling because I don’t care. We have enough stuff. Too much plastic fantastic. When it comes to food, I’m not really into fads. We don’t eat much take away and just because McVomits tells us about a great new burger combination doesn’t mean we rush the children off to try it.
Easy for me to say. I am an adult who can make intelligent decisions for my family. But I am also human, and on a bad day, easily worn down by the badgering, the "pester power" of small people. Favourite cartoon characters atop supposed healthy yoghurts...please mum, can we? Special deals and free giveaways when you buy a particular brand of salty snacks in a bag. We have to have those, mum!
The advertising messages seep in, while you’re busy cooking dinner or tending to homework or changing a nappy. It’s not simply food and toys that appeal to my children. According to advertising my kids have seen, I’ve been told which washing powders we should buy and what car we should drive.
Thankfully these conversations are limited by the fact my kids’ TV screen time (too much according to the experts) is concentrated on ABC, DVDs, and the Wii – but at least they are all ad-free. And of course, there is the husband’s mute rule on commercial TV.
The Cancer Council of NSW has launched “Fat Free TV” – an interesting tool which shows you the junk rating of popular TV shows, based on the amount of junk food ads shown in the commercial breaks of those programs.
Children are exposed to a huge number of ads for junk food everyday, from greasy fast food to sugary snack bars. Marketers say they are self-regulated and doing their bit to protect kids, but this is clearly not working. If it was then why would the average kid see so many junk food ads every single day?
The primary concern is the health risks associated with a poor diet, particularly throughout childhood and then carried into adulthood, and how junk food advertising influences these choices.
Already one in four Australian kids are overweight or obese. Around 80 per cent of these kids will stay that way as adults, which increases their risk of heart disease, diabetes and some cancers. In 2008 more than 30,000 cancer cases were linked to overweight and obesity.
My eight year old has just started to edge his way to a later bedtime. 7.30pm has moved to 8pm and if the house is quiet and I am enjoying a cup of tea with the husband, then he may sneak to 8.30pm. For good reason, there’s not a lot on TV at that time that is appropriate for an eight year old.
Junior Masterchef was something that was suitable and a big hit in our home. My son loved watching the kids cook and getting to know each one as the series unfolded. I thought it was harmless (and boring!), in fact I silently hoped he’d take such an interest in cooking that perhaps we’d have our own little Masterchef whipping up dinner every night.
According to Fat Free TV my son watched his way through 7 junk food ads during that one hour program. Wow.
He may mute the ads, but he still sees them. The flashy product pictures, the cheesy grin on the child’s face. A skinny rake now, he may be, who loves kicking a footy around the yard, but it wouldn’t be unreasonable to think this could change.
Advertising is unavoidable – it is everywhere. What’s important is for our children to understand advertising and its power. We can control what they watch and eat when they are young, but giving them the tools to make healthy choices about lifestyle is a gift for life. Maybe, just maybe, there won’t be a need for The Biggest Loser when our children are adults.
What's your child's TV junk food rating? What’s your opinion on junk food ads during children’s shows? Are you concerned about the health effects of junk food advertising?