The Small Screen with the Big Impact

I hate SpongeBob. Okay, not exactly SpongeBob, but more precisely I have a strong suspicion of all commercial media aimed at my child. You see, a rather frightening statistic is that, on average, children watch FOUR HOURS of TV per day. For these children, that means 30,000 commercials a year. 80 percent are for junk foods.

Now, this "average" also relies on a network sticking to the maximum allowable number of ads in a given time frame. In 2004, children’s network Nickelodean violated this regulation 591
times. They were fined $1 million, far less than the amount netted from
the additional commercials.

I suppose the "average" child's parent would think me a bit odd. Or even
extreme, as a parent. You see, I don’t allow T.V. during the week. On
weekends, we might, just might watch a DVD if the weather is lousy, or
we’ve had an exhausting weekend not spent watching T.V. the rest of the
time.

I also try to choose DVDs that are old enough that the frenzy of
licensed products has abated so we are able to get through a visit
to the store without a hundred repetitions of “No, we don’t need that.”
Or, “Sure, it’s a character you know. But the cereal is crap. We can
get a coloring book instead.” It’s enough to make you hate television.
It really is. And I do. And here is why.

If you haven’t paid much attention to the marketing onslaught aimed at your kids, well, The Kaiser Family Foundation report, “Food for Thought: Television Food Advertising to Children in the United States,” has some pretty frightening statistics that might change your mind.

  • Based on a national average viewing time of four hours per day for
    a child, over a year’s time he is exposed to nearly 30,000 commercials.
  • That statistic is based on the maximum regulated amount of
    commercials that can be shown during an hour of programming. Not all
    networks adhere to this maximum. In 2004, children’s network
    Nickelodean violated this regulation 591 times. They were fined $1
    million, far less than the amount netted from the additional
    commercials.
  • Much of the television programming and commercials are aimed at
    younger children who are unable to differentiate the marketing messages
    from the program content. Given that most of these ads are fun,
    fast-paced and use licensed or branded characters, the similarity
    between the two makes this differentiation even harder to distinguish.
  • Nearly one-third of children under the age of six have a television in their bedroom.
  • Two-thirds of children aged eight and older have a television in their bedrooms.
  • Between the ages of two and four, on average, children view
    approximately two hours of television per day. This increases
    throughout childhood and peaks at adolescence. Tweens and teens begin
    to replace television use with internet use, or will multi-task,
    watching television while online.
  • Sixty percent of all the meals families eat together (and those are not many) are eaten with the television on.
  • Of all the commercials that children are exposed to, nearly half
    are for food items such as sweetened cereals, candy, soda, and fast
    food. Which means 15,000 messages per year, on average.

This item is cross-posted over at Eco Child's Play.

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