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Fat Free TV

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#1 Kylie Orr

Posted 16 February 2012 - 10:39 AM

Muting TV ads was my husband’s idea. He hates them. The blatant lies leading us to believe we’ll be a lesser person, an inferior being if we don’t buy their product. Answering endless questions from the children about why they can’t have one of those amazing, wonderful whiz-bang gizmos/games/toys. Fielding queries about when we can buy that cereal, or the delicious-looking bright green soft drink (all natural of course).

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?


#2 kpingitquiet

Posted 16 February 2012 - 10:54 AM

I'm a tv-for-background-noise type person, so it is on a LOT. However, I honestly don't know how many ads our daughter sees, period. ABC is blissfully ad-deficient and, other than that, we mostly watch DVDs and recorded shows without ads. We also rarely just sit and watch tv. It's on, but we're playing with other things, running around, and just going about our day together. However, if they start putting ads into theme songs (she loves those), I'm totally screwed biggrin.gif

Side note, I don't think there is a need for The Biggest Loser now. It's a revamped sideshow attraction dressed up as help.

#3 HRH Countrymel

Posted 16 February 2012 - 11:06 AM

We don't have any children yet - but what we DO do is record all the shows we want to watch and fast forward through the ads.

I haven't watched any tv advertising for years now.

And what I DO notice is that when I am exposed to it at other peoples homes I am SO suggestible! I will start thinking 'Hmmmmm... that looks good! or Wow! What a bargain! or We simply MUST visit there.. it looks so interesting!'

I'm like a 1950's consumer!

(I do come from a line of easy to advertise to people though - I remember as a child my Dad would see a Bounty Bar/Drumstick commercial on the tv  and disappear for 10 minutes before returning beaming from the shop laden with chocolate/icecreams!)

SO no.. no child of susceptible little me will be exposed to tv advertising!

If DP or I aren't there to fast forward then it's DVD babysitting for us.

#4 debut dad

Posted 16 February 2012 - 11:28 AM

I think recording the shows you want to watch and then being able to fast forward through the ads is a luxury everyone should have as being a parent means trying to save time where and when you can. The indirect benefit from this is obviously the inability for the ads to influence any buying decisions and spark interest in our little ones.


#5 Kylie Orr

Posted 20 February 2012 - 08:59 PM

I do come from a line of easy to advertise to people though - I remember as a child my Dad would see a Bounty Bar/Drumstick commercial on the tv and disappear for 10 minutes before returning beaming from the shop laden with chocolate/icecreams!)

That's hilarious!  I must admit, I am a bit susceptible to junk mail advertising - I found myself circling great deals on things I had no need for - so we now have a no junk mail sticker! E-advertising is just as bad though... I'm not a huge TV watcher, and if we do, it is often pre-recorded shows that we can skip the ads on. For the children who still like a bit of the commercial stuff, I need to keep my finger on the pulse.

kpingitquiet - you should give the fat free tv quiz a go, just out of interest. Obviously ABC will come out with zero, but I was a little surprised by some of the seemingly benign shows that optimise their junk food advertising. And if you asked me about the "need" for BL a year ago, I would have debated until I was blue in the face - I "needed" to watch it because I loved it! This year, hmm I'm a bit over it all - typical viewer who is obsessed for the first couple of seasons and then loses interest!

Thanks debut dad for your thoughts, nice to see a dad in here!  original.gif

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