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According to our textbook, advertising is defined as any paid form of nonpersonal presentation and promotion of ideas, goods, or services by an identified sponsor. Advertising is essential for businesses to be able to market what they are trying to sell to the consumer. Without advertising, businesses wouldn't be profitable or even able to survive. Advertising can be aimed towards many different groups of people. Advertising aimed towards children seems to be a problem that is affecting and bringing up many societal issues today.
Advertising that is targeted towards children is a significant part of our culture. It has a major impact on children and their weight. Obesity is becoming a huge issue for children. Webster dictionary defines obesity as a condition characterized by the excessive accumulation and storage of fat in the body (Webster, n.d.). It is estimated that about 25 million children and teens are overweight or obese in the U.S. (Hellmich, 2006). They have estimated that by 2010, 15.2 percent of children in both North and South America will be obese (Prince, 2006).
A major concern regarding childhood obesity is that obese children tend to become obese adults, facing an increased risk for diseases and other health problems (Anderson, 2000). Obesity in children is almost reaching an epidemic state in our society. Years ago, obesity was not a problematic issue that our society had to be worried about. Marion Nestle, Ph.D. has discovered that since the late 1970s, obesity rates have more than doubled among children 6 to 11 years of age and more than tripled among those 12 to 19 years of age (Nestle, 2006). Children have long lives ahead of them with many things to worry and be concerned about. The last thing they need is to be obese and have to worry about having health problems their whole lives. Studies have shown that as obese children get older, they are more prone to diseases like diabetes, hypertension and heart failure (Prince, 2006). As stated by Dalton G. Paxman, the regional health administrator for the U.S. Public Health Service, "If we do not do anything, obesity will overtake tobacco as the leading cause of preventive deaths" (Jones, 2004).
Marketers use advertising strategies that negatively affect childhood obesity. There are many ways that our society can help fight this overwhelming preventable epidemic. Many think that advertising that is directed towards children should be banned. According to a report that was done by the Institute of Medicine, children do not usually develop the skills to be able to determine what is commercial and what is noncommercial content until they reach the ages 8-11 (Cowdrey, 2006). John Hood, president of the John Locke Foundation, thinks that children should be exposed to advertising. He says that we as a society assume that children should be exposed to a variety of things in moderate amounts so they can develop some understanding and perspective, and that advertising is no different (Howley, 2006). Therein lays the question of whether our society will be able to establish what a moderate amount of advertising is for children so that it won't have a negative impact on childhood obesity.
Advertising that influences Children
Advertisements from television have a considerable influence on the way that children perceive things. On average, children will witness 20,000 to 40,000 commercials a year while watching TV (Sizzzzle, 2006). Each commercial lasts for about one minute on average. That is about 20,000 to 40,000 minutes or nearly an average of 500 hours of television that children will watch a year in commercials alone. About half of these ads that children see on television are for food products (Melillo, 2006). If about 250 hours of commercials that children see annually are from food alone, they are going to have impact on children's perspectives. The Institute of Medicine found that at least 30 percent of the calories in the average child's diet derive from sweets, soft drinks, salty snacks, and fast food (Nestle, 2006). Advertisements directed towards children and the foods that children consume have a correlation with one another. The Institute of Medicine feels that food marketing targets children who are too young to establish the truths of advertising. These advertisements encourage them to eat high-calorie, low-nutrient junk foods. Dale Kunkel, communications professor at the University of Arizona, calculated that if a kid bought each food advertised in a typical day of viewing, it would take six weeks to consume it without exceeding dietary guidelines (Melillo, 2006). The reason marketers sell these types of foods is because they exceed the profits of other types of foods (Nestle, 2006).
In 2001, the University of Notre Dame did a study to see if advertisements had an influence on the way children looked at products. Their results showed that elementary school children who saw an advertisement for a product judged it differently than children who hadn't seen it or saw the advertisement after using or consuming the product (Sizzzzle, 2006). The advertisement actually had an impact on how the children were experiencing consumption with the product There was also a study done that showed that three-year-olds were able to distinguish about 100 brand logos (Sizzzzle, 2006).
Children spend about 60 percent more time watching television than they spend in school each year (Sizzzzle, 2006). In grade school children are attending school for about six hours a day. That would be around 1000 hours each school year. So if children are spending about 1000 hours in school, then that means that on average they are spending 1800 hours watching television which is the equivalence of 75 days. Studies have also found that at least sixty percent of children end up watching at least two hours of television per day (Anderson, 2000). Research done by the Canadian Medical Association has shown that children from ages 8-16 who watch four or more hours of television per day tend to have a higher body mass index and thicker skinfolds than children who watch fewer than two hours per day (Anderson, 2000).
Marion Nestle, Ph.D., found that since 1994, U.S. companies have introduced about 600 new children's food products. Half of these food products have been candies or chewing gums. Another fourth are other types of sweets or salty snacks. Only one fourth accounts for more healthy food items, such as baby foods, bread products, and bottled waters (Nestle, 2006). According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 85 percent of the top food brands whose primary advertising was to children through television also had web sites to market their products (Melillo, 2006).
Online advertising is only a small portion in the big picture of advertising, but it is growing rapidly. Like television, online advertising is also very influential to way children perceive marketed products. According to Elizabeth Moore, Ph.D., the nature of the exposure that the children see on these Web sites is very different from passive 30 second commercials." (Cowdrey, 2006). Web sites that advertise products use more interactive tactics to hook consumers.
There was a study done that examined marketing methods on 77 of children's food and beverage web sites. They looked at many of the common advertising methods that are used in online advertising. Advergaming was found on 75 percent of these web sites" (Cowdrey, 2006). Advergaming is where online games use the product or create brand characters to use in the games. Viral marketing is known as a method where consumers market to another on the internet. Often it is seen on web sites where you can tell a friend about the web site or product that is being offered. The company will then send the friend an email telling them about the product that you recommended them to take a look at. This type of marketing was seen on 64 percent of the children's websites (Cowdrey, 2006).
With soda pop brands you will often see advertisements where you can have a chance to win prizes by entering a code onto their web site. This is a tactic that is used so the consumer will purchase more of the product hoping that they will eventually win a prize advertised on the soda pop can. This was found to be on 38 percent of the children's web sites (Cowdrey, 2006). Some web sites even have links so their television commercials are readily available to view online. Only 53 percent of the children's web sites had this option (Cowdrey, 2006).
It is reported that there are nearly 34 million children in the U.S. ages 3-17 that use the internet (Cowdrey, 2006). Over time children have become more and more influenced by advertisements on television and this has had a negative affect with the issue of weight. The internet is becoming a more and more dependent form of technology and as we become more dependent on the technology, we will become more dependent on the information that is given from the technology.
Advertising in Schools
School is a common ground for most children. This is where children from different ethnic and social backgrounds come together in one place to learn. Getting an education is the primary goal of going to school. Dr. Rhonda Robinson-Beale put it best when she said, "Schools are probably the richest source of intervention because of the amount of time that children spend there" (Jones, 2004). However, children are being labeled and stereotyped. This has a major affect on their social life. Marketers are fully aware of this aspect in school. Not only do they have advertisements up on school grounds, but they also pay "popular" children to advertise their product (Sizzzzle, 2006). When the "popular" children have something that other kids don't have it makes them want to buy it. Advertisers are indirectly advertising to children through school.
Back in elementary school there had to be a time you can remember when your mom or dad packed you a lunch. When the teacher said it was lunch time you would go to your cubby, grab out the brown sack or lunch box you had, and go back to your desk or the cafeteria. When you are sitting next to your friends during lunch you notice that there is one food item that your friend has that you wish your parents had packed in your lunch. It could be for many reasons: maybe you saw an advertisement on TV and had your parents buy it and you loved it, or you saw an advertisement on TV and haven't gotten the chance to try it yet, or it could be because you saw Susie the most popular girl in school eating it and you figured since she was eating it that it must be good. Whatever your reason you are determined to get that food. So you are willing to trade anything out of your lunch for that one item; even if it means your whole lunch. That is just an example of how advertising can have such a big impact on children in school. They are trying to get children into wanting these desirable products such as junk food, which might be good and enjoyable and the time, but eating them excessively could be detrimental. Children don't even realize that what they are doing can ultimately be harmful to their help.
In recent years many schools haven't had the funding for all of their programs so some have cut physical education. The Association of National Advertisers brought up a good point when they addressed the issue of childhood obesity and the schools impact on this. "If obesity is a national crisis, why have physical education programs been cut in schools?" (Edwards, 2006). Schools should not be cutting programs, let alone physical education when we are nearing an epidemic state in childhood obesity. There are alternatives to get around the issue of money. Children's health should be a greater concern to our society because they are the future.
Controversy of Advertising
There have been many debates over whether or not there should even be advertising aimed towards children. With the many studies and results that have been collected over the years, there have been lawmakers that have considered pushing the U.S.'s policies in the direction of either banning or regulating advertising to children. Many states have introduced legislation propositions to limit the items that will be going into the vending machines at schools. Some of the leading well-known companies such as PepsiCo and Coca-Cola Co. have created new options for the vending machines that are more nutritional for children (Thompson, 2004).
There are at least 50 other countries that control television advertising aimed at children. Australia has banned food advertisements that have been directed towards children under the age of 14. The Netherlands has bans on advertisements on sweets that would possibly be directed toward children who are younger than 12. In Sweden, advertisers aren't allowed to use any cartoon characters to promote foods to children under the age of 12 (Nestle, 2006). Robert Groves, exectutive director of Health Promotion Council stated it best when he said, "I think now we have to look at the availability of food and even physical activity in a new kind a fresh way and realize that it is going to take a change in the culture from multiple kinds of sources." (Jones, 2004).
What are some ways to help fight childhood obesity?
Parenting and Childhood Consumption
Children influence their parents into spending nearly 1.8 trillion dollars annually. (Sizzzzle, 2006). Much of the markets revenue is coming from them being able to influence children. If the advertising strategies that marketers are using seem to be making them money then they will continue to use the same methods. Studies have shown that households with children show greater sensitivity to price (Bridges, 2006).
Many experts feel that parents are some of the most influential people on a childs weight. Nutrition expert Amy Lanou from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine says that the problem with our society is that the fast-paced lifestyle is a normality in which we leave ourselves little room for anything but takeout or any other options that are convenient and take little time out of our busy schedules (Prince, 2006). Parents have a definite input on what children are eating.
Nutrition researcher Barbara Rolls suggests that, "If parents are concerned about their child's weight, they should use less fat in their cooking" (Hellmich, 2006). Researchers at Pennsylvania State University did a study where they fed children who ranged from 2 ½ to 5 ½ -years-old two different types of macaroni and cheese to see if they could tell the difference between the two. One type was low in fat, while the other was made with extra butter and oils. The results showed that the children liked both dishes equally. The lower-fat macaroni had 72 less calories than the other macaroni. Nutrition experts say that parents should be able to shave calories from their children's favorite dishes without them recognizing. (Hellmich, 2006).
Another suggestion made by Jennifer Orlet Fisher, assistant professor in the pediatrics department at Baylor College, was that parents should let their children serve themselves and persuade them into taking smaller portions and if they feel that their hunger needs haven't been satisfied then they can go back for more (Hellmich, 2006). Also parents should encourage their children into eating a well balanced meal. Make sure that they become familiar and understand the food pyramid. Marlene Schwartz encourages that parents let their children know that have vegetable and fruit servings is a necessity to a well balanced meal (Hellmich, 2006). Along with making sure that children are having good nutrition, parents should also promote being physical active to their children as well.
Being physically active along with maintaining a well-balanced diet is one of the key components to staying healthy. Parents should make sure that there children are involved in some time of daily activity to maintain a healthy lifestyle. A study that James Levine and his colleagues did found that the normal-weight kids stood and moved for an average of 368 minutes a day. Overweight kids only stood for 282 minutes, making that a difference of almost an hour and a half (Hellmich, 2006). He made the suggestion of investing in a portable stair stepper (Hellmich, 2006). It is a way for children to exercise while they are watching their favorite TV shows.
Parents could also sign their child up for some type of sports team. There are various types of sports out there and you should have your child experience them so they can not only stay healthy but also create team building skills. Joining a dance team or ballet could also be an option. If parents cannot afford to pay for their child to join a team, there are other alternatives to keeping your kid healthy. Doing outdoor or sports activities is always a possibility because not only does it keep your child healthy, but you are helping maintain your own health as well.
Parents should also regulate the amount of television and internet that their children are using daily. Parents cannot be around all the time, but if children are young enough they should have some adult or authoritative figure to monitor their actions. One suggestion to know what your child is doing at all times is to have them keep a daily log of everything that they do through the course of the day. Parents have many options on how they can influence their children in positive ways and they have a big impact on their lives.
Children and School
Schools also has a major impact on children's health. Children spend much of their time at school and it can be a very influential place for them to be at. Educators have the authority to make this a positive impact on children.
An estimated 50 percent of students only get their exercise when they are at school. (September, 2006). National health and sports experts have found that the average amount of daily activity that middle and high school students should be doing is about 45 minutes. Even in gym classes students aren't getting the adequate amount of daily activity that they should be getting. Sixteen minutes is the average amount that high school students actually move their bodies. One reason is because they spend too much time sitting or standing around in class waiting to play games (September, 2006).
Out of the 6.3 million children who are enrolled in the California public school system, Superintendent Jack O' Connell said that 75 percent are not in good physical shape. Only one in four students was able to meet all the requirements to pass the state's annual physical fitness test (Hull, 2006). He said that at many schools physical education is a low priority because of time constraints or lack of teachers. Teachers shouldn't see being physically active as a time constraint. It has been found that children who are physically active tend to be more alert and do better in school (September, 2006). This should be motivation enough to want teachers to be involved with their students' health. Teachers and instructors need to be more authoritative towards these children and give them positive encouragement so they will want to exercise more. Alternatives could be participating in activities that involve a lot of movement. Another idea is doing activities that can progress with difficulty over time so that students feel like they were able to accomplish something and make a change in their health.
Many schools leaders around the country have suggested wellness policies to help children fight the issue of obesity. At an elementary school in Oklahoma, the students will have recess before lunch because studies have shown that students make healthier food choices after exercising (Brown, 2006). Another elementary school in Oklahoma has banned foods with minimal nutritional value for elementary students except for special occasions (Brown, 2006). In Tulsa Public Schools, the middle school students will be emphasizing on reading food labels and understanding the portions that are suggested. They are also going to make it available for parents to be able to monitor what their child is purchasing in the cafeteria through an online program to see whether or not their children are making good food choice decisions (Brown, 2006).
With a combination of both exercise and better nutritional decisions, schools can be a healthier place for children to be. Exercising and playing games can not only make children healthier, but it can increase their intellect, create team building skills, and establish relationships amongst students. Also teaching students about nutrition and ways to eat healthy but still enjoy food can be good information for children to absorb. Teachers are some of the most influential people in children's lives and they have an impact on how children intend to live them.
Society as a whole
One idea that we as a society could do to help improve childhood obesity would be to implement taxes on junk foods so that they would be harder to buy. Robert Groves, executive director of the Health Promotion Council, said, "I think that society and government should look at the issue of actually taxing and subsidizing food in a way that makes good food more available and unhealthy food a little harder to buy" (Jones, 2004). The entire society would be taking a hit for the taxes put on these foods, but it could end up helping out our entire society in the long run. Many of the children of today are going to becoming leaders in the future. If they all end up becoming obese they will have increased risk of getting diseases and a greater chance of dying at a younger age. We don't want to outlive our future leaders.
Another idea would be have greater education systems. Children spend a great deal of time in school. They should be getting a better education so that they can learn and become familiar with issues that deal with nutrition and learn some of the best ways to take care of themselves. We might end up having to pay more tax dollars, but it would be worth it to end up with a healthier society.
Advertising has a negative effect on obesity. It can be associated through many different forms of advertising. The two main sources for aiming advertising towards children are television and the internet. Nutritionist Amy Lanou comes to a fair conclusion that, "Children are playing less and less outside and we are eating a diet that is too rich in fat, meat, sugars, and processed food and staying away from fiber rich foods like fruits and vegetables" (Prince, 2006). There have been valid suggestions as to how we can deal with this issue. Parents have one of the biggest impacts on children. They should encourage their children to be physically active and have a well balanced diet. A suggestion made by Marlene Schwartz was that a solution to improve your children's health would be to put the foods you want to them to eat right in front of them. Don't wait for them to request that type of food, and don't question whether or not they would like it (Hellmich, 2006). They should also encourage their children to by physically active on a daily basis. School educators are also very influential. They should do the same things as parents, because with more positive reinforcements, more positive habits will be formed. Also our society should be concerned with this issue because it is reaching an epidemic status and these children are our future leaders. An article in the International Journal of Advertising brought up a good point for which our society could have an outlook on this issue. Advertising messages cannot be completely prevented from reaching children. Our goal of American public policy should be to promote healthy eating and reduce childhood obesity. The best way to do it and be the most effective will be by improving our education systems and implementing taxes that activate a price response in children's food categories (Bridges, 2006).