Some broadcasters (Disney, for example) are incorporating healthier messages into their children’s programming. Such actions are necessary to turn around the onslaught of advertising of products that provide poor nutrition to children. To date, however, these efforts are falling short of what is needed to have enough educational and informational broadcasting to help children. Nor are those efforts enough to limit the overwhelming amount of advertising that potentially harms children.
In another symbolic action, Nickelodeon has joined with the Boys and Girls Clubs of America and the Alliance for a Healthier Generation over the past four years to sponsor a “Let’s Just Play” campaign. In addition to public service announcements and more than 3,000 local events, Nickelodeon went dark from noon to 3 p.m. to encourage kids to go outside and play. They also committed more than $30 million and 10 percent of its airtime to promoting health and wellness messaging.
There are reports that food companies are getting around the restrictions on television advertising by going to the Internet, where the marketing of junk food is unregulated. The Kaiser Family Foundation contends that 85 percent of businesses advertising to children on television also had interactive websites for children promoting their branded products. In a three-month monitoring project, over 12 million children visited websites promoting food and beverage products.
Certainly, any solution to childhood obesity must include reforming the nation’s sedentary lifestyle and “screen time activities” (including computers and video games). The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children watch no more than two hours of television or computer screens per day.
Further, experts reveal that a child’s taste for protein-rich foods, like meat and fish, is inherited, but vegetables and desserts are acquired tastes that can be influenced. They encourage parents to offer a variety of vegetables and healthy foods, like fruit, for dessert. Parents are advised to focus on healthy eating and an active lifestyle rather than on a child’s weight control. By eating healthy meals, children will have the energy necessary for physical activity, sports and learning.