This weekend I watched a few hours of television. By that, I mean that I watched a few hours of television as it streamed in through our terrestrial antenna, real time. I normally don’t watch television this way, I normally watch shows on AppleTV, using either ITunes, Hulu +, or Netflix. We watched shows recorded on the Tivo, too this weekend, something we haven’t done most of the winter, due to the basement being much cooler than the upstairs, a feature in the summer, a fault in the winter.
Watching TV ‘as the broadcaster means it to be viewed’ after so long a time away from it was pretty eye-opening. There are advertisements on regular TV, lots of them, mostly for foods. The ads that were not for foods seemed to be for drugs to counteract the effects of foods. I didn’t feel as though I had to rush out and buy McDonald’s or Magnum Ice Cream, but they did cast a positive glow on their wares. Children watching these commercials could be excused for feeling that they must have these things that they see several times per half hour program.
According to this post in Psychology Today,
A very common tactic (in fact the single most common tactic) for food ads targeting children is to equate the advertised product with happiness. This tactic of course sends the message that the advertised product brings happiness, which is controversial not only because children are less likely to question it, but also because it’s the only tactic used in the ad.
Think about that, your children watching cartoons all morning in their room are being told over and over again that their candy-equivalent breakfast food is eaten so that they can be happy. To a child that is exactly what it means, food brings happiness. There is no effort to educate about what is in the food, vitamins, minerals, grains–only that this food will make you happy.
It would be nice to be able to control the wilderness of television advertising, but there is an alternative to writing rules to prevent them doing what they are currently doing. You can always get off of broadcast and cable television. My setup is an over the air antenna that goes to the Tivo, and an internet connection to my Apple TV. I have an Apple TV at each set in the house. It uses the Wifi to get to the internet. Hulu + has advertisements, but they are not yet food ads. Maybe some day that will be polluted like the broadcast stuff, but for now, the grand kids watch Netflix cartoon shows which have zero ads in a program. YouTube used to be ad-free, but now maybe there are ads there that I have not noticed. The grand kids watched mostly Netflix and YouTube this weekend when they were over, and they were not subjected to hundreds of ads like they would have been watching cable TV.
In the end, you must do everything you can to keep your kids from craving sugary foods. Part of the solution is to not purchase those types of foods, and one way to make the struggle easier in the grocery store is to not have children who believe that certain breakfast cereals create their happiness. Find ways to entertain them that don’t come with thousands of misleading ads per month.