Snacking versus Parenting: The Impact of TV Commercials

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There has been a commercial on TV that makes me crazy.  The first time I watched it I felt annoyed, but thought I was just having a bad day. The second time (and third time) I saw it I was still annoyed so decided I should look a little bit deeper. The basic story is that here is a child who wants and snack and he whines through the grocery store until mom gets him one. I think the message is supposed to be that this produce it a good choice that can satisfy moms and kids. Nutrition aside – I understand the message.

Unfortunately, there are some other messages contained within this commercial as well.

  • It is acceptable for children to whine to get what they want
  • Good parenting involves giving in to whining children
  • Processed foods are better snacks than whole foods

From a public health perspective, what would happen if the images on television were of children eating healthy foods? I can think of only one commercial on TV that depicts children eating vegetables and liking them. I can think of many commercials and even more television shows that involve parents hiding vegetables to get kids to eat them, children hiding vegetables to pretend that they have eaten them, and other subtle messages to communicate that vegetables are bad and children should not like them.  While I would have still been offended by this commercial, it would have been less offensive if the mom had gone to the produce section of the grocery store and picked up a carrot for the young boy.

Even though the child was whining, everyone still appeared pretty happy. I was never happy when my children whined in public.  I learned very quickly that giving in to the whining only made them whine more often.  There was no correction for the behavior in the commercial.  The background message here is that giving in is normal or acceptable. This message, when viewed repeatedly, can’t help but desensitize us to this inappropriate behavior. Where are the media messages that show children behaving appropriately and parents dealing with childhood misbehavior calmly and rationally?

Many children and adults have viewed this commercial and I suspect that most never notice the messages that I did.  That doesn’t mean that the message doesn’t have an impact though.  Advertising works. In the past I’ve definitely purchased things based on the commercials and jingles. As may awareness has increased, I’m trying to do a better job of avoiding products that perpetuate negative attitudes and behaviors. As yourself these questions:

  1. Does this commercial communicate accurate information about the product?
  2. Does this commercial communicate life views that are consistent with mine?
  3. Does this commercial include people behaving in a way that is inappropriate or dangerous?

If you answered yes to any of these, please consider making a different consumer choice.  Children need to see images of other children behaving appropriately, not children behaving badly and getting away with it. Parents need to see images of other parents acting calmly and confidently with their children. Insisting on this change through our consumerism could have a significant impact on everyone.

I’d love to hear your views on this.  How do television commercials impact your consumer decisions?

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