Media

"The 'Off' Button Is Always Within Reach"

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We appreciate the good intentions, but as with so much involving kids, it's primarily up to parents to monitor unwelcome influences. The "off" button is always within reach.

That's the Chicago Sun-Times' wise rejoinder to the latest set of recommendations regarding children and television from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

In a widely discussed (indeed, I even appeared on a San Fran radio show with the head of the organization last night) policy statement, the AAP argues that TV advertising is a major factor in the growing number of overweight children (about 15 percent of kids are obese porkers) and that ads for food, booze, and impotence drugs should be restricted on the boob tube. "If we can make the airwaves healthier, and make advertising healthier, then it makes more sense than putting 50 million children on a diet," said Victor Strasburger, the University of New Mexico professor who was the author of the statement. "We'd like to see more birth control ads…and less ads for erectile dysfunction drugs because it makes sex seem like a recreational activity."

The AAP spokesman I debated also argued that advertising has negative effects on kids when it comes to sexual activity and drinking. I don't really buy that correlation. It's not clear that kids are eating more calories these days (indeed, it seems likely the rise in adolescent chubsy-ubsyism among all ages stems more from a decline in physical activity rather than pigging out on Doritos and Double-Plus Good Big Gulps). Teen sex is down from where it was a decade ago and drinking rates are way below 1975 rates and down since recent upticks in the mid-1990s, despite an almost certain increase in ads directed at or consumed by kids.

The AAP worries that parents can't stand up to kids who whine for junk food and, apparently, beer and Viagra. If that's the case, then it's really a lost cause, isn't it? The AAP makes one decent point: "If we taught kids media literacy, you can essentially immunize kids against advertising," Strasburger told the press. That's about right. And more to the point, that's already happening–not in school or in doctors' offices, but in the living rooms of the United States and around the globe, as children grow up in a media-soaked environment.

NEXT: I Don't Know But I've Been Told, a Fat Dog's Owner Ain't Got No Soul

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  1. “…and less ads for erectile dysfunction drugs because it makes sex seem like a recreational activity.”

    It’s not?

  2. Correct me if I am wrong, but isn’t the point of birth control to make sex not an act of procreation but one of recreation?

  3. The “off” button is always within reach.

    Amen! Because despite what they say, it really is that simple.

  4. We have to protect our children from the insidious influence of television advertising, which is a form of coercion. If parents don’t know enough to use the off button, then they need our help to use it for them. Unfortunately, there’s only one show on television that builds people up rather than tears them down, and it is perfectly fine to view the advertisements during that show, which have been pre-screened for your protection.

  5. This Dr. Karen thing is becoming quite the elaborate prank.

  6. It’s not?

    Certainly not. That’s also why “We’d like to see more birth control ads….” The purpose of sex is to thwart the will of God, not to have any fun in the process. Give men longer lasting erections and the next thing you know women will start enjoying sex. Then where would we be?

  7. Agreed. Parents should just watch their kids. They can prescreen some videos. Then the kids can watch a TV that’s hooked up to the DVD player but not the cable.

  8. It’s not clear that kids are eating more calories these days (indeed, it seems likely the rise in adolescent chubsy-ubsyism among all ages stems more from a decline in physical activity rather than pigging out on Doritos and Double-Plus Good Big Gulps). Teen sex is down from where it was a decade ago and drinking rates are way below 1975 rates and down since recent upticks in the mid-1990s, despite an almost certain increase in ads directed at or consumed by kids.

    Nick–That’s just the Cialis talking. You’ll be singing a different tune in up to 36 hours.

    Should we infer from these ?ber-Nannnies that the latest Garmin GPS Nav ads will only encourage teens to get lost?

  9. My favorite:

    “If we can make the airwaves healthier, and make advertising healthier, then it makes more sense than putting 50 million children on a diet,” Strasburger said.

    So basically kids, or anyone else, can eat as much junk food as they like as long as that decision wasn’t advertised into existence then no one would gain weight.

  10. My kids only stopped smoking once they pulled the cigarette advertising off the air.

  11. I don’t have kids and I don’t care what advertisments they see on TV, the fat bastards. I’m just sick of these busybodies telling everyone what to do. And if Dan T. and Dr. Karen love each other so much, they can just go and take some Viagra and make a kid of their own, who will not be allowed to watch TV and then won’t get too fat.

  12. Must…not…read, Mean Martin….Manning. Advertizing…getting…too strong…to…resist!

  13. My dogs won’t even mind me how the hell do you expect me to keep the kids out of the M&M’s and the Marlboros?

  14. One of the issues with marketing towards children is that it’s been found that young kids are intellectually unable to distinguish the difference between programming and advertising. As adults, we know that ads are meant to try to manipulate us, and they still work pretty well, so imagine how effective they are towards children who haven’t developed any sense of skepticism?

    Any decent society, in my opinion, would reject out of hand the idea that our children are fair game for corporate manipulation. Or at the very least, it wouldn’t allow such manipulation and then either wonder why children are turning out the way they are or even worse blaming them for it.

    On a side note, it’s cool to see my legend has grown to where I’m parodied on a thread I haven’t even posted on!

  15. Nah, kids should be having more sex. Burns calories.

  16. My folks were pretty damn good at regulating what I watched. I’m sure a big part of it was because we lived in rural areas most of my younger years, my parents didn’t divorce until I was 16, my dad didn’t work a whole lot so could stay at home with me, we did family activities all the time, etc.

    At the same time, even when I got a little older, they were quite good at saying “no” to me. Like when I wanted to watch Moonlighting but they didn’t get the humour, I didn’t get to watch it. Maybe during the commercials of whatever else it was we watched, but that’s about it.

    Sugary cereal? Forget it. Stay up late? Hell no. I wanted this or that toy – we’ll see (Christmas and my birthday was about it for anything major, at least until I was earning money by doing chores or what-have-you).

    Granted, once I got away from all that, I got a little wild, but I think I was raised about as good as you can raise a kid, and it had nothing to do with some gov’t agency or v-chip nonsense.

  17. I am looking at the post publication peer reviewed policy statement, “Children, Adolescents and Advertising,” and its really hard to sererate the subjective from the objective. The references, all 97, are a mix of completely subjective rantings against materialism, “Advertisers have slowly but steadily infiltrated school systems around the country. The “3 Rs” have now become the “4 Rs,” with the fourth R being Retail.” to some decent data about thhe cognitive skills of children, but the extrapolated interpretation of this data only seems to go in one direction, “Advertising is a pervasive influence on children and adolescents.”
    There is a lot of great statistics about advertising but I can’t find anything that actually supports their conclusion, “Advertisements can be restricted or even banned if there is a significant public health risk. Cigarette advertising and alcohol advertising would seem to fall squarely into this category, and ads for junk food could easily be restricted.”
    There you go, time to be like the Europeans were public health triumphs over consumer choice and parenting.

  18. It’s not clear that kids are eating more calories these days (indeed, it seems likely the rise in adolescent chubsy-ubsyism among all ages stems more from a decline in physical activity rather than pigging out on Doritos and Double-Plus Good Big Gulps).

    Either that or not all calories are created equal.

  19. Give men longer lasting erections and the next thing you know women will start enjoying sex. Then where would we be?

    Hopefully face down in a pile of breasts.

  20. Any decent society, in my opinion, would reject out of hand the idea that our children are fair game for corporate manipulation. Or at the very least, it wouldn’t allow such manipulation and then either wonder why children are turning out the way they are or even worse blaming them for it.

    Any decent society, in my opinion, would reject out of hand the idea that our physician’s groups are fair game for ideological hit jobs. Or at the very least, it wouldn’t allow such dishonest manipulation of reality and then allow it to pawn its opinion off under the false guise of medical authority.

    There. Fixed that for you.

    On a side note, it’s cool to see my legend has grown to where I’m parodied on a thread I haven’t even posted on!

    Dan, Dan, Dan, you are a parody.

    Or a Reason sock puppet. I can’t decide.

  21. “Either that or not all calories are created equal.”

    Hey, psst, Sam…shuuut uuuup! You’re gonna blow the lid off this entire “quick fix by attacking bogeyman du jour” scam! Keep it on the DL, man! Next thing you know, you’ll be telling people that the BMI isn’t a good indicator of health!

  22. Any decent society, in my opinion, would reject out of hand the idea that our physician’s groups are fair game for ideological hit jobs. Or at the very least, it wouldn’t allow such dishonest manipulation of reality and then allow it to pawn its opinion off under the false guise of medical authority.

    Right, because one of the pillars of libertarianism is that no advocacy group has an honest interest in the well-being of society, they just want to keep you from having a good time.

  23. Dan,

    The best intentions are not very reassuring to the man whose pursuit of happiness has been taken away.

  24. “Right, because one of the pillars of libertarianism is that no advocacy group has an honest interest in the well-being of society, they just want to keep you from having a good time.”

    Awww, poor old hungry troll. Here’s some scraps:

    There’s a rather massive difference between A) blindly accepting the validity of advocacy groups’ claims based solely on their stated altruistic intentions, and B) not relying at all on their stated altruistic intentions, but instead verifying the validity of their claims using observation of reality, of facts.

    I’m not going to give anyone the benefit of the doubt simply because they claim to be “doing it for the children” or some other such pandering nonsense. If it pisses you off that stated intentions are not good enough…well…too bad. The best intentions are no match for facts & reality.

  25. We’d like to see more birth control ads…and less ads for erectile dysfunction drugs because it makes sex seem like a recreational activity.

    I’m just wondering what “it” is referring to in that sentence. If it’s ED drug advertisement, that really doesn’t make any sense, since ED interferes with pro- as well as re-creational sex. If “it” refers to birth control ads, that makes sense, but it means that the speaker wants sex viewed as a recreational activity.

    Of course, both of these referents are plural, so “it” can’t properly refer to either of them, but I’ll leave that to the pedants.

  26. Dan T.:

    On a side note, it’s cool to see my legend has grown to where I’m parodied on a thread I haven’t even posted on!

    It’s less of a parody than a ridicule.
    We’re not so much laughing with you as at you.

  27. The AAP makes one decent point: “If we taught kids media literacy, you can essentially immunize kids against advertising,” Strasburger told the press.

    The already happens. I remember learning about all the different advertising techniques when I was in 6th grade, I believe. Let’s see if I can remember some of the things they taught us about.

    There was celebrity endorsement, the scientific appeal to authority, the “everybody is using this product” approach, saying it was the cool product, etc. I don’t remember them all, but I remember the basic idea, that advertisers are disingenuous.

  28. Maybe teen sex is down because they’re all fat?

  29. Maybe teen sex is down because they’re all fat?

    No, because of free Internet porn. Which incidently, is why no teenage boy deserves deserves an ounce of sympathy for anything today.

    Hot, fat, teenage sex….mmmmmm.

  30. “If we can make the airwaves healthier, and make advertising healthier, then it makes more sense than putting 50 million children on a diet,”

    But, but, won’t the kids have to go on a diet anyway, regardless of the content of ads, if they are to achieve the level of health desired by these nutjobs?

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