A free daily digest of the biggest news stories of the day - and the best features from our website
Thank you for signing up to TheWeek. You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.
It goes without saying that sitting in front of the television isn't much of a weight-loss strategy. But, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the sedentary nature of TV-watching isn't the only problem with cartoon marathons. The numerous ads for junk food influence children's eating habits, and contribute to the childhood obesity epidemic. "We created a perfect storm between media use, junk and fast food advertising, and physical inactivity," says AAP's Dr. Victor Strasburger in a statement. Now, the AAP is calling on Congress and the Federal Trade Commission to "get tough with the food industry" and ban fast food advertisement during children's programming, a move that could potentially decrease the number of obese and overweight children by as much as 17 percent. Do we need this ban?
No. Self-regulation is working: "If advertising caused obesity, why have obesity rates increased while television advertising has dropped significantly?" asks a Council for Better Businesses statement, as quoted by Health News. Our industry group launched a voluntary initiative in 2006, and since then, the mix of ads on children's programs has substantially improved. Many ads are for healthy foods like milk, juice, and vegetables. There isn't any substantial evidence to merit a ban, and we should just keep doing what we're doing. It's working.
Subscribe to The Week
Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.
C'mon, voluntary regulation isn't enough: "Allowing the food industry to self regulate is like leaving the fox in charge of the henhouse," says Melissa Sweet at Croakey. Junk food peddlers have a vested interest in selling their products to kids, and they'll find ways to work around voluntary regulation. There's clear and "consistent evidence" demonstrating the influence that marketing has on what children eat, and "it's time for this sugar coated voluntary code to be scrapped and replaced with clear and meaningful government regulations that protect children."
Still, ads are only part of the problem: "Will banning advertising really curb obesity?" asks Drucilla Dyess at Health News. "Screen time and advertising are only one component in childhood weight gain." Just look at the rising number of obese adults. If they can't learn to eat better and exercise, how can we expect kids to do so — no matter what's on the TV?
But they are hugely influential: "The average American child sees nearly 8,000 commercials on TV for food and beverages [annually], and only 165 of these are for nutritious options like fruits and vegetables," says Alice Park at TIME. We can't underestimate the tremendous influence advertising has on kids. Parents should watch TV with their kids to talk about what is and isn't healthy. We should also "spend money on researching how we can maximize the good effects of media and minimize its bad effects."
Continue reading for free
We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.
Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.