Have you heard the news? Disney is pulling the plug on junk food advertising during children’s television shows! The Walt Disney Company also announced new guidelines for advertising on radio, website programming, and Saturday morning cartoons on stations that it owns.
Why is marketing junk food to kids troublesome? Today, children ages 2-12 see more than 25,000 advertisements a year on television alone! According to the Center on Media and Child Health at Boston Children’s Hospital, kids’ preferences are easily influenced by what they see in advertisements on television, the web and in magazines. Research shows that kids under age 8 often do not understand that advertisements are meant to persuade them to buy or do something. And the more television that kids watch, the more ads for junk food they’re likely to see.
The new Disney policy will prohibit advertising foods that don’t meet specific nutrition standards set by the government. While the policy won’t take effect until 2015, there are steps you can take now to reduce the media’s influence over your child’s food preferences:
- Set limits on TV viewing and other media. Aim for two hours or less per day
- Model the behavior you’d like to see. Hop off the couch and show your kids alternative activities you can enjoy together – such as playing basketball, visiting a playground, or reading a book.
- When you do watch TV, take advantage of the time together. Watching with your child allows you to explain the difference between a television show and a commercial (and helps you keep tabs on what your child is watching!).
- Teach your kids to ask questions. Advertising is often deceptive, but teaching your kids to be critical thinkers will help them make healthier choices about what they choose to eat and drink.
By trying these strategies, you can follow Disney’s lead and help protect your children from junk food ads that may influence their food choices.