TV Ads Make "Perfect Storm" for Childhood Obesity
Television watching, inactivity, and junk food advertisements create the “perfect storm” for childhood obesity says a new policy statement on kids and media exposure from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
It comes as no surprise that kids who engage in increased amounts of time in front of a television or computer have higher incidences of obesity. These sedentary habits take the place of physical activity which burn calories and stave off health risks related to added pounds.
However, according to the AAP policy statement it is not just sedentary lifestyles that are putting kids at risk. Advertisements for junk foods and sleep interference may have just as harmful of an effect.
“Thirty years ago, the federal government ruled that young children are psychologically defenseless against advertising. Now, kids see 5,000 to 10,000 food ads per year, most of them for junk food and fast food,” said Dr. Victor Strasburger, member of the AAP Council on Communications and Media.
Many studies have shown that junk food advertisements increase kids desire for these types of foods and promote snacking behaviors while engaged in media use.
In addition, late-night use of these media technologies has been shown to interfere with kids getting enough sleep, a risk factor for developing obesity. In one study of more than 600 children researchers found that evening TV use increased sleep disturbances such as trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, sleep walking, nightmares, and daytime sleepiness. Sleep is important to regulation of hormones which control hunger and metabolism.
“American society couldn’t do a worse job at the moment of keeping children fit and healthy – too much TV, too many food ads, not enough exercise, and not enough sleep," said Strasburger.
The AAP outlined in their statement a list of recommendations for pediatricians as well as policy makers about how to more effectively address this growing problem with kids, obesity and media. These recommendations include:
- Limit kids' non-educational media time to no more than 2 hours per day
- Local and national bans on junk food advertising
- Avoid TV and Internet use in kids' rooms
Resource: American Academy of Pediatricians