The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) recently took a hard look at the Nickelodeon entertainment brand and wants to know “Should Dora the Explorer and SpongeBob SquarePants really be hawking junk food to young children?”
They’re not alone in raising that question. At this time more than 55 health groups and 30 prominent nutritionists, physicians and other experts agree that, although Nickelodeon and Viacom have taken a few small steps to improve their advertising standards, they must further strengthen their policies on food marketing to children. Read the coalition letter to Nickelodeon and Viacom.
“Nickelodeon prides itself on responsible programming for kids, but how can a program be responsible, if the ads during that program are irresponsible?” asked CSPI nutrition policy director Margo G. Wootan. “Feeding kids healthfully is tough enough without Nickelodeon letting its programming and characters be used to market foods that promote obesity, diabetes, and other health problems in children.”
Besides sending the letter, CSPI created an action alert so that individuals can express their desire for Nickeloden to change their advertising practices. A social media campaign using a wide range of outlets and messages is also underway to keep the pressure on Nickelodeon. Read Wootan’s guest blog post Food Marketing to Kids Must Stop.
Disney Leads by Example
Disney set a precedent for strong advertising guidelines when, in June 2012, they became the first major media company to introduce standards for food advertising on programming targeting kids and families. Under Disney’s new standards, all food and beverage products advertised, sponsored, or promoted on Disney Channel, Disney XD, Disney Junior, Radio Disney, and Disney-owned online destinations oriented to families with younger children will be required by 2015 to meet Disney’s nutrition guidelines.
The Ongoing Battle
Margo Wootan goes on Food Chemical News’ The Knife and Fork Show to discuss the fact that it is not just Nickelodeon that needs to change. Children’s entertainment companies in general should self-regulate their child-directed food advertising.
Using Data to Improve Health
“Low-income youth and adults are exposed to disproportionately more marketing and advertising for obesity-promoting products that encourage the consumption of unhealthful foods and discourage physical activity,” states The Food Research and Action Center report Why Low-Income and Food Insecure People are Vulnerable to Overweight and Obesity states that. (Kumanyika & Grier, 2006; Lewis et al., 2005; Yancey et al., 2009). Such advertising has a particularly strong influence on the preferences, diets, and purchases of children, who are the targets of many marketing efforts (Institute of Medicine, 2006).”
Community Commons offers the following map on obesity rates for low income children ages 2-5 that can be used to create GIS data for your community.
Click on the infographic to read some startling statistics about the amount of junk food advertising children are subjected to, what children eat, and the unfortunate results.
With the average child seeing thirteen junk-food ads per day, it is going to take the collective efforts of everyone to turn the tide on childhood obesity and help this generation become the healthiest one yet.