Kids are exposed to advertisements at every turn these days — on TV, on the Internet, in magazines, on the radio, on billboards, on the packages of their favorite foods, even in school. Now, with the holiday shopping season in full swing, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is saying enough is enough.
In a policy statement published in the December issue of the journal Pediatrics, the AAP speaks out about how advertising and marketing messages are inundating children and teens and significantly contributing to some of the biggest problems facing kids today — obesity, bad diets, and cigarette and alcohol use.
The AAP points out some eye-opening statistics:
- The average child sees 40,000 ads on TV alone each year. Half of those are food commercials — often for sugary cereals and high-calorie snacks — and 2,000 are beer and wine ads, usually in sports programming.
- Two major studies found that tobacco ads and promotions are behind about a third of all teen smoking. Seeing tobacco ads may put kids and teens at an even greater risk of smoking than if their friends or family members light up.
- Sexual content in the media may lead teens to be sexually active earlier, according to new research.
- More than 200 school districts in the United States have contracts with soft drink companies.
- Adolescents spend about $155 billion a year, kids under 12 dole out another $25 billion, and kids and teens may influence their parents to spend possibly another $200 billion each year.
What This Means to You
There's virtually no way to shield kids from every ad, but here are some simple ways to keep the marketing messages to a minimum:
- Limit screen time to no more than 1 or 2 hours of quality programming a day for kids older than 2.
- Have your kids watch public television stations.
- Tape programs — without the commercials.
- Buy or rent children's videos or DVDs.
- Know what kinds of websites your kids visit and what kinds of magazines they read.
You can also teach kids how to be savvy consumers, even at a young age. Talk to them about what they think of the products being advertised as you watch TV, listen to the radio, read magazines, or shop together. Ask thought-provoking questions, such as:
- "Do you think you need that product? If so, why?"
- "Do you think that product will make you happy? If so, why?"
- "Do you think that product is good for you? Why or why not?"
Talking to kids about what things are like in reality can help put things into perspective, especially during this time of year when wish lists often grow longer with each ad they see.
Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: December 2006