Fast Food Ads Aren't Making Kids Fat

Julie Ryan Evans
26

boy watching TVOn Monday the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) called for a ban on fast food advertisements during children's programming on television. The organization asked Congress and the Federal Trade Commission to "get tough with the food industry." A noble and well-intentioned move in the war against childhood obesity for sure, but one that's misguided and unlikely to make any impact.

They say doing so could reduce overnight and obesity rates in children by as much as 17 percent, and if that's true, that would be great. But that's based on just one study, and the facts just don't add up to support it. According to the Council for Better Businesses, advertising has actually gone down as obesity rates have gone up. In statement the council said:

Much of the American Academy of Pediatrics statement regarding an ad ban is based on old or seriously flawed data. Simply put, if advertising caused obesity, why have obesity rates increased while television advertising has dropped significantly?

If kids are seeing more ads, it's likely because they're watching more television. And frankly, that's not the advertisers' fault -- they are kind of in the business of making money -- it's the parents fault for letting them watch that much television. The same parents who don't say no to too much TV also likely have trouble saying no to their kids' requests for junk food. Don't blame Ronald McDonald for that.

The doctors quote a frightening statistic that one-third of American children eat a fast food meal on any given day. Gross, but guess who's buying the kids those meals? The parents, who presumably are not watching those ads during children's programming.

I don't doubt television has contributed to obesity rates, but I don't think it's what's playing on the television that's causing them to soar as how much time is being spent sitting in front of it and how little control parents are taking of what they're kids eat.

It's ludicrous to think we can keep children sheltered from all of the world's temptations, and if that's really our goal, then they shouldn't be watching television anyway. If a kid is spending that much time being blasted with junk food ads, then how about just not letting your kid watch that programming. If enough parents boycott programming with fast food ads, the advertisers will get the picture. But make the parents, not the government, take action. They're our kids, and talking to them about all food choices -- not sheltering them from them -- is what's going to be most effective in managing their weight for a lifetime.

Are you in favor of banning fast food ads during children's programming?


Image via Leonid Mamchenkov/Flickr

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