It is clear that Americans are getting fatter, both children and adults. A primary cause of increased obesity is the effect of advertising of food products, which translates into changes in eating. Advertising causes people either to eat more food in general or to eat a less healthy diet than would otherwise be consumed. Although it seems as if children are the main targets for fast food advertising, adults are also seeing the effects of this. If children are getting fed these high-calorie, high-fat meals, then the parents are most likely consuming them as well.
However, there is increasing interest in the effect of sedentary behaviors such as television viewing (the media), computer use, and electronic games on obesity. In an article, researchers now suggest that 60 percent of the extra pounds Americans have put on may be caused by a decline in the physical demands of work brought about by the arrival of computers and the like. The other 40 percent is due to technological innovation in agriculture which has driven down real food costs. This double whammy has left 60 percent of Americans overweight and a quarter technically obese.
With more adults becoming more sedentary, their drive for cooking and preparing healthy meals has declined. Convenience foods are easy, fast, and, well, convenient! They are easily accessable and cause little work or effort to obtain the food. Since obesity is on the rise, a lot needs to be done. Technology will continue to increase, but we cannot allow obesity and sedentary lifestyles to increase as well.
In the field of public health, research has established that the news media serve as an important source of health information for members of the general public who rely on it particularly for information about issues lying outside of their immediate realm of experience.
A 2001 survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health found that more than one-half of Americans name national,local, or cable news as their most important source of health information, rather than a health care provider or public health source.
In addition, 42% of those polled reported that they closely follow health news stories.
Tobacco issues have become increasinglynewsworthy as organized public health efforts to reduce tobacco use have grown and tobacco issues have become more politicized. Reporting on links between smoking and adverse health outcomes increased after the release of the 1964 Surgeon General’s report on smoking and health.
Moreover, many other facets of tobacco control also have fallen under the news media spotlight. Over the last 40 years, the news media have paid significant attention to the tobacco-caused deaths of famous people; attempts to increase cigarette taxes, introduce and uphold smoke-free laws, and mount antismoking campaigns; criticism of tobacco industry advertising, promotions, and conduct in opposing effective tobacco controls; and private and state efforts to recover smoking related health care costs from the tobacco indus try. Much of the increase in news coverage results from a rise in the number of newsworthy tobacco-related events in the United States and internationally. However, this increase also reflects explicit efforts to create newsworthy events and stories and to shape news coverage by those working to promote or to undermine tobacco control progress. There is a great need for a greater focus on media issues in tobacco control.
We are all susceptible to the messages we see in the media, but the influence of media on children is particularly powerful. Many of our basic beliefs are formed in our early years and media can hold sway if not monitored and regulated by parents.
Wikipedia says that consumerism is the “equating of personal happiness with the purchasing of material possessions and consumption.” Nearly all forms of media are filled with both overt and subliminal messages encouraging us to buy.
Academic experts have attributed depression, anxiety, and other emotional maladies with consumerism. It is said by some to be leading us to a social/financial catastrophe, and even the leaders of the church have challenged the value of our consumer based culture.
Reports have indicated that many families in the US have their TV on an average of 6 ¾ hours per day potentially giving their TV a stronger grip in a child’s education than their school teacher. According to The Sourcebook for Teaching Science, the average child in fact, views 1500 hours of television per year compared to spending only 900 hours per year in school.
With so much time to educate and entertain, it becomes clear that television is indeed a powerful force in how we perceive things; both for adults and for children. Certainly for advertisers, children are a desirable target as they are even less likely to be consciously aware that those who promote products are attempting to shape they way they think and behave.
As I discussed in an earlier post, the influence of media on children also extends into how we view ourselves and others. Television shows portray women in a certain way. Generally focusing primarily on their attractiveness; or at least Hollywood’s version of it.
These images from movies, television, and all kinds of advertisements bombard women; often with the effect of creating an unattainable image in their minds of how they should appear. Anorexia, bulemia, low self-esteem and a host of other problems can result. These images of course, can also effect the expectations that men have regarding how women “should” behave and look. If the all popular “Barbie” was a real women, she would be 6′ 0” tall and only 108 lbs. This is completely unrealistic, yet many woman strive to become that size because it is implanted in their brains that that is what is expected of them. It is truly revolting and heartening.
According to an article, the roots to the standards of beauty being imposed on women (the majority of whom are naturally larger and more mature than any of the models) are economic. “By presenting an ideal difficult to achieve and maintain, the cosmetic and diet product industries are assured of growth and profits. And it’s no accident that youth is increasingly promoted, along with thinness, as an essential criterion of beauty.”
There was a dove commercial that had these woman (above) who are beautiful and comfortable in there own skin-and not stick-thin skinny. More advertising needs to show woman in this light so that less suffer from disabling diseases. Talking with young girls about the images they see and giving them better role models is also extremely important.
Alcohol advertising has shown to have a great impact among teens and adults. Youth exposure to alcohol advertising on TV increased 71 percent between 2001 and 2009, according to a report from the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
During past Super Bowl games, a survey conducted by a coalition in Columbus, Ohio, showed that beer commercials were a big hit and that beer ads were among teens’ top five favorite Super Bowl ads. The interviewers wanted to see what commercials the kids were remembering. Not surprisingly, the ones with alcohol were among the top 5. Even if the commercials/advertisements are not aimed directly at teens, they are clearly viewing them and their content is having a great effect. These comercials are being shown on channels that are directed towards adolescents, whether alcohol marketers want to admit that or not. The commercial below is one that made the top 3 favorites among teens.
Alcohol advertising has been banned in many countries across the globe because of the rise in alcohol-related deaths each year. A report shows that alcohol is the leading drug problem among kids. Some 4,600 deaths a year are alcohol related. Last year, 10.4 million, or more than a quarter, of American kids 12-20 reported drinking in the past month. Long-term studies show that exposure to alcohol ads and marketing increases the likelihood that kids will start drinking or consume more alcohol. If the United States wont start taking action, then it’s up to parents. They need to converse with their children and let them know that the commercials being shown don’t reveal the devastating effects that alcoholism can have on themselves and their families.
The influence of media effects how kids perceive what is and is not acceptable. Smoking is an example. When celebrities and role models are depicted smoking, it appears to be a normal and acceptable behavior. So to with drug use, drinking, cell phone use when driving, physical violence, and so forth.
Parental role modeling, the behavior of peers, and other factors play into this as well, but the effect of media is indeed strong.
Certainly, the media often portrays men as aggressive, women as passive. In addition, women are often portrayed with a focus on their beauty and sexuality. (or perhaps their homemaking skills) These images, often repeated, can influence how both women and men feel women should not only look, but also how they should behave.
There are a number of ways parents can exert some control over the influence of media on children. With younger children it isn’t too complicated to limit their exposure to television and other types of media. However, it becomes increasingly important for parents to take an active role in how kids evaluate what they see in print, on television, and on the internet.
This article on developing media literacy can be a good starting point.
Also, this article
explains many other negative effects that advertising and the media can have on children-
- Advertisements encourage the children to persuade their parents to purchase the products shown in the commercials, whether useful or not. The little ones tend to get adamant, if they are not bought the product.
- Children often tend to misinterpret the messages conveyed in commercials. They overlook the positive side and concentrate more on the negatives.
- Many advertisements in the present times include dangerous stunts, which can be performed only by experts. Even though the commercials broadcast the statutory warnings with the ad, the kids often try to imitate the stunts at home, with fatal results.
- The flashy advertisements broadcast in television generate impulse shopping in children.
- Children, after watching the glitter of commercials, often lose the ability to live a life without materialistic joy.
- The kids usually get more attracted towards the costly branded products, such as jeans and accessories. They disregard the inexpensive, but useful, ones that are not shown in the commercials.
- Advertisements have an indirect effect on the behavior of children. They might develop temper tantrums, when deprived of the latest toys and clothes that are shown in the commercials.
- The personal preferences in clothing, toys, food and luxurious of children are altered by the advertisements, to a great extent.
- Junk foods, such as pizzas, burgers and soft drinks, are heavily promoted during children’s TV viewing time. This develops a craving for fatty, sugary and fast foods in kids, thereby affecting their health adversely
There has been an on-going debate whether or not television influences a child’s behavior. There isn’t a doubt that the media has an impact on a child, but is it so influential that it can make a child do something that they would have never thought of doing until they see it on the television?
Television can be a powerful entertainment and education tool for children given the right programming. However, studies have shown that television, and media in general, can also have a very negative influence. Some studies indicate it can shorten attention spans in children. This can cause a large decline in learning and the inability to stay focused.
In an article in USA Today, study leader Dimitri Christakis, a pediatrician at Children’s Hospital and Regional Medical Center in Seattle says that young children often are mesmerized by the TV screen. The possible link between watching TV and attention problems is of great concern because so many infants and toddlers are frequent viewers, he says.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no TV for children younger than 2 and no more than two hours of high-quality programming for older kids. However, many children are exposed to much more television than this. In the first few years, human brains undergo “huge and very swift development,” says Elizabeth Sowell, a UCLA neuropsychologist. This should be a wake-up call that we need to take a closer look at how early media use affects children.