Currently this is a serious and growing concern for public health officials, registered dietitians, and families interested in living their day to day lives in a healthy manner. Youth are at the highest risk. According to the National Health Examination Survey, children ages 11-13 have highest rate of daily television viewing (Brown, 2008, p. 316). In a 2007 study, children were more likely to be overweight when they watched more television (Gable, Chang & Krull, 2007).
Currently, the second leading cause of actual death according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention is poor diet and physical inactivity (Schneider, 2006, p. 270). Trends that lead to poor diet and physical inactivity, eventually obesity in adults and children alike, stem from habits that form early on in childhood. This creates an endless cycle that perpetuates from generation to generation. Obesity is currently an issue that threatens the majority of Americans and its prevalence has increased substantially in the last three decades (Schneider, 2006, p. 72). It’s caused by a number of different factors including genetics, physical inactivity, and poor eating habits. Two of the three factors noted can be strongly associated with television media. A study conducted at the University of Minnesota in 2009 found an increased incidence of eating in front of the television was primarily due to advertising and reduced metabolic rate in adolescence (Barr-Anderson, Larson & Nelson, 2009). Reduced metabolic rate decreases one’s need for calories.
Individuals of this demographic typically don’t take this fact into consideration and eat as much as before their exposure to television was such a significant part of their daily routine. This tendency leads to unwanted and unnecessary weight gain. Increased weight has shown to elevate the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and most kinds of cancer not to mention obesity (Schneider, 2006, p. 270). A less commonly recognized phenomena related to this issue is that people don’t know what healthy choices are and in turn, they are more likely to fall victim to any temptations set before them.
These enticements are provided most commonly by television media advertising directed at less educated, more easily influenced audiences. For example, inexpensive fast food that is a particularly popular type of advertising might seem like a logical source of food for some families that do not have access to, or know anything better. Environment There are many problems that make up this complex and layered situation. Many social, cultural and economic factors contribute to these dietary patterns and eating habits that develop over a lifetime (Schneider, 2006, p. 77). The amount of time children spend with different sources of media from: television, film, video games, and computer or online media is exceedingly taking up the greater part of their time. With the average five and a half hours children spend using media on a daily basis, the only thing they spend more time doing is sleeping (Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, 2004). From age two to twenty, only eighteen years, that adds up to over 29,900 hours spent with media and 1. 8 times more than the 16,000 hours spent in school grades k-12 (Grossberg, 2006, p. 93).
That equals out to approximately 20 hours per week according to a study done in 2006 (Francis & Birch, 2006). Not only in the time spent exposed to media is a risk factor for children, but the way in which the media is consumed is also a major contributor to this situation. In the home, if there is a lack of parental control monitoring children’s media exposure, children are then at a higher risk of being influenced. Children heavily influenced by the media have the ability to manipulate how money is spent and savvy companies see them as the consumers to be targeted (Peregrin, 2001, p. 6). Children sometimes even spend their own money on the products they see repeatedly reinforced around them. Advertisers use this well known fact to target children because they know the powerful influence children can have on their parents purchasing decisions (Peregrin, 2001, p. 56). In an article written in 2001, Registered Dietitian, Adrienne Dorf expressed her opinion about educating children who are exposed to excessive media. She emphasized the need to explain the difference between television programs and commercials to children who may not be able to differentiate the two.
Dorf urged parents to explain the idea of sales and the fact that the food advertised via commercials may not be the best for our bodies. Dietary habits form over a lifetime and are greatly influenced by the social environment and family setting as well as the media (Schneider, 2006, p. 277). From time to time parents struggle with taking their children into the supermarket for groceries just because they don’t want to fight about what the new craze is in sugary cereal or what unhealthy snack crackers are showing more commercials on television or the latest cartoon characters face on their box.
It is a common to see a mother or father who gives in to please their child when he or she throws a tantrum in the middle of the aisle to get something they want. This repeated action can be a detrimental in the long run if it persists and continues. Impact Food industries have a goal to sell as much of their product to the public as possible. They will do anything they can to encourage American’s to eat and spend more money on any of their products. Most food advertised is high in fat, sugar, and salt leading to children in the grocery store begging their parents for candy and unhealthy snack foods (Borzekowski & Robinson, 2001).
Foods advertised taste “good” resulting in advertisements publicizing foods with high amounts of sugar, fat, and salt towards younger generations. For example, fast foods and high sugar cereals are two of the most commonly publicized items during children’s programming. Studies have shown that children under the age of 6 years of age cannot distinguish between television programming as opposed to commercial advertising (Borzekowski & Robinson, 2001).
The primary problem is that children who spend excessive amounts of time exposed to television media are more likely to be overweight. According to the National Longitudinal Survey of Labor Market Experience, Youth Cohort (NLSY) a strong dose-response relationship was found between television viewing and the prevalence of overweight (Brown, 2008, p. 316). Adolescents from 10 to 15 years old who reported watching more than 5 hours of television per day had greater odds of having a BMI in the 85th percentile (Brown, 2008, p. 316).