health article on Disney's Anti-Junk Food Measures Are Sure to Work regarding Children, Advertising, Preferences, Influence, Media, Disney, Health, Obama, Change, Vegetables, Calling, Dietary, Reached, Clear, Studying, Years, Academies
COMMENTARY | When I was a kid, I remember having the feeling I was missing some joke that every other American kid understood. Every TV show and movie targeted to kids included some joke reminding me that vegetables were nasty and that I wasn't supposed to like them -- making me feel weird for preferring broccoli to hamburgers.
Commercials a few moments later highlighted sugary cereals and colorful candies as gourmet alternatives to the icky green stuff that Mommy was serving me. I have no doubt that the media has a tremendous influence on kids' food preferences, and that's why I'm glad to see that Disney intends to eliminate junk food advertising from under-12 TV shows.
Some are outraged by the initiative, with commenters on one Associated Press article calling it the work of the "nanny state" and "completely ineffective," but I fail to understand these points. Disney has made the decision to make this change voluntarily, not with the coercion of any government institution.
And, while Michelle Obama has applauded their decision, calling it a "huge" step for children's health, the Obama administration has proposed no funding or legislation that would directly influence Disney's decision.
Furthermore, the effectiveness of these measures is not up for debate. Not only can any parent's anecdote reveal that junk food advertising influences children's food preferences, but solid science also proves it. The Institute of Medicine of the National Academies has spent years studying the influence of advertising on children's dietary preferences, and has reached a clear conclusion that advertisements for junk food encourage children to eschew vegetables in favor of sweeter, nutritionally bankrupt snacks.
I have no doubts a change in advertising tactics by one of the world's leading providers of children's entertainment will help to stall the rapidly spreading epidemic of childhood obesity -- especially if it leads other leaders in children's media to follow suit. We owe it to our kids to take steps that will benefit their health, and that includes media encouragement of healthy lifestyle choices.
Juniper Russo is a freelance writer, health advocate, and dedicated mom living in Chattanooga, Tenn.