Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Tell lies to your vision

Originally uploaded by ALifeAllah.

Here are two reports that weigh in on the media feeding our children the "wrong foods".

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Studies link media to modern ills
The Kansas City Star
Media and Children | Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine, Journal of the American Medical Association
“We are conducting an ongoing, uncontrolled experiment on this generation in terms of media exposure and potential future behavioral and physical consequences, and it seems unopposed by the media industry and most parents.”
— Donald Shifrin, American Academy of Pediatrics

Blame it on the media.

Last week, the U.S. Senate took critical aim at violent video games. This week, the medical community is releasing a stack of studies linking TV and video games to a host of modern ills among America’s youth, including obesity, sexual activity, consumerism and antisocial behavior.

“Media need to be recognized as a major public health issue … as they are among the most profound influences on children in this country,” researchers Dimitri A. Christakis and Frederick J. Zimmerman write in Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.

New research is needed because kids today are saturated with media that weren’t available 20 years ago, these experts say.

So it may be time to slap a warning sticker on the family television. Researchers this week called the nation’s mass media a public health issue that urgently needs to be addressed. To make their point, they released study after study that links TV and other media to obesity, sexual activity and other problems among children. The studies appear in the journals Pediatrics and Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.

Media and children: What researchers found

■ African-American children are heavily exposed to commercials for junk food. After-school programming on Black Entertainment Television ran more advertising for fast foods, sugary drinks and snacks than The WB or the Disney Channel.

■ The more TV that third- and fourth-graders watched, the more frequently they asked their parents for the food, beverages and toys they saw advertised.

■ White 12- to 14-year-olds who had a heavy diet of sexually oriented TV, music, movies and magazines were more than twice as likely to have intercourse when they reached 14 to 16 as teens who consumed less sexy media. The study in Pediatrics also found that black teens were influenced more by parents’ expectations and friends’ behavior than by media.

■ Adolescents under 16 who watched TV two or more hours a day, and had parents who strongly disapproved of sex, were more likely to initiate sexual intercourse within a year. Sexual initiation was even more frequent when their parents didn’t regulate TV viewing.

■ The more time children ages 6 to 12 spent watching violent TV programs without their friends, the less nontelevision time they spent with their friends. But the more time children spent watching TV with friends, the more time they spent together on other activities.

■ Being awake in a room with a TV on for two or more hours a day raised the risk of being overweight among 3-year-olds. Tuning the TV to educational programming didn’t lower the risk.

■ Male college students assigned to play the violent “Grand Theft Auto III” video game had higher blood pressure, more negative emotions and more permissive attitudes toward alcohol and marijuana than students who played “The Simpsons” game.

■ The more time school-age children spent watching television, the more calories they consumed, largely in the form of potato chips, pop, candies, cookies and other foods commonly advertised on TV.

Media facts

■ Average time spent daily using media by 8- to 18-year-olds: 6 hours, 21 minutes

■ Children with TVs in their rooms: 68 percent

■ Children with computers in their rooms: 31 percent

■ Children living in households with no TV rules: 50 percent

■ Households where TV rules are enforced: 1 in 5

Guidelines for parents

■ Do not allow a child’s room to become a media center with TV, video games and Internet.

■ Limit media time to 1 to 2 hours of quality programming a day.

■ Discourage TV viewing by children under age 2.

■ View and discuss media content with your child.

■ Turn off the TV during meals and when no one is watching.

■ Be a good media role model.

Sources: Kaiser Family Foundation, American Academy of Pediatrics

Black-Oriented TV Has More Fast-Food Ads
The Associated Press
Monday, April 3, 2006

CHICAGO -- There are far more ads for fast food and snacks on black-oriented TV than on channels with more general programming, researchers report in a provocative study that suggests a link to high obesity rates in black children.

The results come from a study that lasted just one week in the summer. Commercials on Black Entertainment Television, the nation's first black-targeted cable channel, were compared with ads during afternoon and evening shows on the WB network and Disney Channel.

Of the nearly 1,100 ads, more than half were for fast food and drinks, such as sodas.

About 66 percent of the fast-food ads were on BET, compared with 34 percent on WB and none on Disney. For drinks, 82 percent were on BET, 11 percent on WB and 6 percent on Disney; and for snacks, 60 percent were on BET, none on WB and 40 percent on Disney.

The study in a pediatric medical journal accompanies separate research: a study indicating kids consume an extra 167 calories, often from advertised foods, for every hour of TV they watch; and a report suggesting even preschoolers get fat from watching more than two hours of daily TV.

The articles appear in April's Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, a theme issue on media and children's health released Monday.

The studies clearly illustrate "that the media have disturbing potential to negatively affect many aspects of children's healthy development," Amy Jordan of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at University of Pennsylvania wrote in a journal editorial.

"Such evidence offers increasing support for the American Academy of Pediatrics' recommendation that children older than 2 years spend no more than two hours per day with screen media, preferably educational screen media," Jordan said.

Still, Jordan said the ads study doesn't prove that a disproportionate number of commercials for unhealthy foods causes black kids to become overweight, and said more research is needed "to more convincingly directly tie exposure to effects."

Obesity affects about 18 percent of black children, compared with about 14 percent of white youngsters, according to 2001-02 data. The rate was almost 20 percent for Hispanics. New estimates coming later this week are expected to show the numbers have increased for both blacks and whites.

BET spokesman Michael Lewellen said BET's target audience is blacks aged 18 to 34 and said its programming "does not target children." He also questioned the study's methods since the researchers included ads shown during prime time, "when virtually all networks target adults."

The researchers examined ads shown from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. for one week last July. Programming generally was music videos on BET; cartoons and talk shows on WB; and cartoons and kid-oriented shows, including "That's So Raven" and "Kim Possible" on Disney. The same programming is offered during the school year, said Corliss Wilson Outley, a University of Minnesota researcher and the lead author.

While Disney is not an advertiser-supported channel, the researchers counted company-announced sponsors of Disney programs as commercials. McDonald's Corp. was the leading fast-food advertiser.

Outley said black children are an attractive target for fast-food companies because many live in neighborhoods with easier access to fast food than healthier food.

The goal is to "get kids hooked at a very early age" so they become lifelong customers, she said.

McDonald's spokesman Bill Whitman called the study "a bit misguided" and said McDonald's doesn't single out black children.

"Our marketing strategy encompasses young people as well as adults and we do that through various media and marketing strategies that cross all demographics," Whitman said.


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