Making Sense

Junk Food Ads Tips

The fastest way to a kid's brain? Through his stomach. Help kids see through junk food ads.
Caroline Knorr Parenting Editor | Mom of one Categories: Marketing to children
Parenting Editor | Mom of one

What is junk food advertising?

Kids are bombarded by advertising for junk food and fast food everywhere they turn. According to one study, kids see one food commercial every five minutes during Saturday morning cartoons. Most of these foods are high in fat, sugar, salt, and calories. Fast-food chains appeal to kids with tie-ins to movies, giving toys or prizes to kids who buy certain meals.

As kids age, they are subjected to promotional campaigns with offers for free music downloads, cell phone ring tones, and games sponsored by the food and beverage industry. The beverage industry alone spends more than $3 billion marketing directly to kids. Advertisers sneak junk food – called “product placement” – into hundreds of TV shows, movies, and online games. They even find their way into our schools by way of score boards, special events, fundraising, and textbook sponsorship.

Why it matters

Research, including a 2010 study from UCLA, finds a strong connection between ads and eating habits. One out of every three kids in this country is at risk for becoming obese. American kids consume more than one-third of their daily calories from soft drinks, sweets, salty snacks, and fast food. As kids associate pleasure with junk food, they develop lifelong, unhealthy habits that are difficult to break.

Fortunately, some companies are taking responsibility. More fast food chains offer healthier options for both kids and adults these days. And in June 2012, Disney announced it will limit junk food advertising by requiring advertisers to adhere to new nutritional standards.

These are positive steps to limit exposure to powerful advertising that can influence kids' decisions. Here are some ways you can combat junk-food ads:

Tips for parents of all kids

  • Keep them away from advertising as much as possible. Let them watch commercial-free TV or sign up for a DVR service that will let you skip through ads.
  • Take the TV out of your kid’s bedroom. There’s a correlation between a children’s weight and TV in their bedrooms.
  • Teach kids under 7 the difference between a TV program and a commercial. Point out commercials and use a timer to show them when commercials begin and end.

Tips for parents of elementary school kids

  • Talk about health, not appearance. Help your kids have a balanced approach to food, emphasizing healthy food choices based on nutrition, not diet.
  • Help kids identify junk food advertising messages in product placement, website games, and guerilla marketing. Watch TV or play a video or online game with your child and find the products and logos used as props or part of the storyline. Have a conversation about how the messages try to get kids to buy a product.
  • Start a conversation. Ask your children what they know about who created the ad and what words, images, or sounds were used to attract their attention. How did they feel after seeing the ad?
  • Watch what websites they visit. Some of the most popular websites for kids, such as Millsberry, are actually giant ads.
  • Explain “tricks” that advertisers use in commercials, such as using Vaseline to make hamburgers look juicy.

Tips for parents of middle and high school kids

  • Talk about “super sizing.” Your kids need to know that a 32-ounce soda isn’t a “good deal.” It’s a cheap way to add more sugar and empty calories.
  • Agree on fast-food rules for lunch. As in, as little fast-food as possible. Point out why schools around the country have banned sodas and junk food.
  • Take time to have dinner together. We are still the role models for our kids. If we feed them right and set an example for good eating, chances are they will follow it.
  • Talk about peer pressure. Many ads will count on the fact that kids are especially sensitive to peer pressure to be “cool.” Remind your kids that advertisers are counting on this vulnerability to sell things.
  • Take the TV out of your kid’s bedroom. There’s a correlation between a children’s weight and TV in their bedrooms.

 

How do you resist the nag factor that commercials inspire in kids?

About Caroline Knorr

As Common Sense Media's parenting editor, Caroline helps parents make sense of what’s going on in their kids' media lives. From games to cell phones to movies and more, if you're wondering "what’s the right age for... Read more

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Comments (6)

I do like in the video when the narrator talks about junk food companies becoming moe responible than ever in advertising and health but I feel there is a now thinner than ever line between responsibility and cashing in on a trend that should not be erased .
really commonsense? you're better than this. talk about why Homer from simpsons is a positive role model drinking in the bar and bart when he skateboards naked. and talk about why kid shows have lots of drugs and beer and cigarets and that you feel like you're watching the play boy.
I completely agree to the facts stated here.Commercials influence a lot to kids.It is actually difficult to keep them away from the television.The best way I think is to keep them busy in some activities other than TV.
as much as possible we should avoid or eat less junk foods. it may sound literally but as the word says junk foods so it's not really good for the health. getting facebook fans
Yeah tell kids about sugars and fats. The damn targeting age is 8-12. like they even know what any of that does to their bodies..