Kids Are Watching Inappropriate TV, But It’s Not What You Think

Last Update: June 2, 2023

It’s not just the terrible cartoons and mindless, non-active hours on the couch—turns out, sitting in front of the TV might also be turning your kid into a junk-food addict.

It’s a junk-food jungle in today’s TV landscape. More half the food shown in ads aimed squarely at kids doesn’t meet the federal nutrition guidelines, according to a new study. Which basically means food companies are shilling junk food directly to our kids.

The study measured the levels of what the federal government calls “nutrients to limit”: saturated fat, trans fat, sugar, and sodium. And the results weren’t pretty. A whopping 53 percent of the foods shown in advertisements targeting kids were high in at least one nutrient to limit.

Think it’s no big deal? Kids see 10 to 13 food commercials every single day. Those ads are spread out over the 3 hours a day most kids spend watching the boob tube.

Countless studies link the amount of TV kids watch with weight gain. Our country’s rate of childhood obesity remains sky high at nearly 17 percent—and kids’ addiction to the TV is only making the problem worse.

For one thing, watching television is a sedentary activity—kids aren’t running and playing outside. Researchers have also discovered that children who are glued to the screen tend to snack more often—and they’re choosing potato chips instead of carrots and celery.

This preference for fried junk foods over wholesome, fresh foods comes back to TV programming. The authors of the study noted that the public needs to “encourage the food and beverage industry to market their healthiest products to young consumers” to really make a difference.

Even with unhealthy foods dominating the small screen, parents can still create healthy habits early on in their families. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents limit screen time, and instead encourage independent play.

And when the kids do want to plop down in front of the TV for a bit, offer then a better option of their favorite snacks. Swapping out sugary drinks and fried snack packs for fresh fruits, vegetables, and healthier choices like popcorn or trail mix sets a good example for the whole family. With so many healthy kids snacks out there, there’s no reason to give in to junk food.

Photo credit: Iain Watson via Flickr

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Annalise Mantz

Annalise is a foodie, Brussels sprouts lover, grammar nerd, and political pet aficionado.

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