Today, children watch two to four hours of television per day and view 40,000 ads per year. And the majority of these commercials are for candy, cereal, soda and fast food. And while the amount of television watched by American kids has been increasing in the past twenty-five years, so have their waistlines. Just this month the Institute of Medicine found that one-third of American children are either obese or at risk for obesity. This is consistent with the Center for Disease Control's findings a few years ago that, since 1980, the proportion of overweight children ages 6-11 has doubled and the number of overweight adolescents has tripled.Wait, there's a hint in the next sentence of this rant:
While children's television viewing has significantly increased, their susceptibility to television ads has not decreased. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, children under 6 cannot distinguish between programming content and advertising. And children under 10 do not have cognitive ability to understand a commercial's persuasive intent.
Small children can't weed out the marketing messages from their favorite show, especially when marketing campaigns feature favorite TV characters like SpongeBob and Scooby-Doo. There is no doubt that childrenÂs advertising is big business. The Kaiser Family Foundation also found that fast food companies alone spend $3 billion per year targeting kids.
The research linking childhood obesity with media and advertising to children troubles me as a parent and as Chairman of the FCC.That's right, President George W. Bush named Kevin J. Martin to chair the Federal Communications Commission. Martin spoke yesterday to announce a new Task Force on Media and Childhood Obesity (see AP yesterday via Washington Post).