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Junk Food Ads Proliferate Children's TV Shows and Their Little Minds

Fighting back the war against unhealthy food and habits is not difficult, but it may require change.

Sometimes parents feel they are mounting an uphill battle in their attempts to get their children to eat right. That fight is certainly not made any easier by the advertising aired during children’s television programming that highlights greasy burgers, “fruit” rollups and high-sugar cereals. One organization, the American Academy of Pediatrics is fighting back, asking for a ban on all junk food and fast food ads airing during children’s TV shows.

The group is also appealing to Congress, the Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Communications Commission to prevent advertisement on devices such as cell phones and for paid promotion in movies. While this may smack of “Big Brother” it also reflects just how serious the childhood obesity issue is to our country’s pediatricians.

"I don't like all of the commercials," said Karen Bezel of St. Clair Shores, who was recently shopping with her two sons at . "It's too much. When they watch TV they always want to go to the kitchen to get a snack. They want to stop and eat."

Bezel has two young sons, Andrew, 10, and William, 7. She has resisted the calls for fast-food runs for several reasons. First, her family eats most of its meals at home, and she knows the cost can add up by frequenting such restaurants.

"I do a lot of cooking at home," she added. "It's a lot healthier."

Bezel's point brings up another. Just because children are seeing the ads, they are not the ones driving to Kroger and buying the sugar cereal, the soda pop and the toaster pastries. It’s the parents.

It is estimated that one-third of all American children and teens are overweight or obese, which is twice that of 30 years ago. The overwhelming majority (98 percent) of food ads shown during highly rated children’s programming are for junk food of one sort or another.

The report reminded parents that while children are watching television, they are also not exercising. During these summer months, it is important for parents to constantly encourage their children to play outside. This may also involve the parents taking the time to drive their kids to the city pool for a fun afternoon or evening of active play.

If the weather outside is inclement, television is not the only answer. The three Grosse Pointe libraries have librarians who love to match up children with books or authors that will give them hours of entertainment, while stimulating their brains.

"That's what I like best about my job," said Grosse Pointe Youth Services librarian Jane Marsden. "I love to match a child up with a book, or to encourage them to participate in our children book groups. We have so many other things at the library to offer children of all ages, even our Story Time."

Riding bikes, playing tag, playing catch with a football or baseball, going to a local park to use the great playscapes or reading a good book. These are all wonderful alternatives to plopping in front of the television for a steady diet of unhealthy content.

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