The Effects of Television Advertising on the Over Consumption

of Unhealthy Foods in American Children

Courtney I. Clements

Thomas Nelson Community College

ITE 119

Professor Mann




This research shows the correlation between television advertising and the over consumption of unhealthy foods in American children. It will touch on the causes and treatments of obesity including the medical parameters of obesity. This research will discuss treatment options for obesity and large scale changes that can be made to avoid obesity problems in the future. With the increased amount of advertising toward children marketers have made it nearly impossible for parents to steer clear of unhealthy choices. This research will touch on how advertisers make unhealthy lifestyles popular for the on-the-go parent and their insistent children.

This research will outline how the mass production and delivery of television advertising has led to overconsumption in American children; it will show the issues we as Americans have with material overconsumption and the obesity problem in America while offering solutions to begin turning these issues back around and living healthier lifestyles.


The Effects of Television Advertising on the Over Consumption

of Unhealthy Foods in American Children


In the Middle Ages and during the renaissance a person was considered to be affluent, wealthy, and powerful if they were overweight because they could afford the means to be so.

After hundreds of years that mindset has changed; being overweight is now considered one of the largest epidemics Americans have faced. The obesity problem across the globe has spread due to over consumption and under exertion but in the American people specifically overconsumption is a problem that is faced by many. This habit starts at an early age and is controlled by the advertisements that we see on every day television. The temptation to indulge in unnecessary products stems from the constant reminder that such products are available to consumers at reasonable prices. Television has become a primary informational source and is the way in which advertisers capture the attention of the real decision makers in a household: the children. There is a correlation between the sale of these products and the epidemic that we are facing as an American society. This research will outline how the mass production and delivery of television advertising has led to over-consumption in American children; it will shed light on the issues we as Americans have with material overconsumption and the obesity problem in

America while offering solutions to begin turning these issues back around and living healthier lifestyles.

Obesity is more than a number on a scale; it is a disease that has causes, symptoms, treatments and cures, and is not to be regarded lightly. The parameters of obesity have been set in Black’s Medical Dictionary (2010) as “A condition in which the energy stores of the body

(mainly fat) are too great. It is commonplace in prosperous countries and is increasing in developing countries, particularly amongst children and young people. Many believe that it

TELEVISION ADVERTISING AND OVER CONSUMPTION IN AMERICAN YOUTH represents the most serious public health threat of our age.” The condition is not only about

4 being a certain number of pounds overweight but is measured in terms of body mass index.

Those who are obese tend to have poor eating habits, inactive lifestyles, and a food intake that is greater than their energy output. This is an easily managed disease so long as one has the ability to be disciplined in living healthily and remains dedicated to their weight loss. If untreated or unmanaged obesity has been known to cause complications such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, gall bladder disease, hernias, gout, osteoarthritis, cancer, and even irregular menstrual cycles or ovarian failure in women. This is a disease with a cure, which is something that does not seem to be widely understood considering the actions being taken to reverse its effects are just now being implemented.

When it comes to the causes of obesity there are many arguments including lifestyle, eating habits, lack of exercise, and the general difference between nature and nurture. Nature and nurture are the lifestyle types being considered here, because this research will show that it is indeed the nature of a person’s upbringing that determines their chances of becoming obese. The immense exposure to television that children in today’s American society have impacts their decision-making processes when it comes down to what is going into their bodies. Advertising on television is one of the biggest influences in a person’s life. Starting from birth media and technology are thrust into the faces of newborns to soothe them and ends up being the babysitter for toddlers and young children. Although a parent may monitor what show a child is watching they cannot control what is seen during commercial breaks. Children in America are the true decision-makers of the household and for that reason many commercials are geared toward the younger generation. Advertising on television has gone from simply showing a product that is available for purchase and outlining its features for the convenience of shoppers to a race to see

TELEVISION ADVERTISING AND OVER CONSUMPTION IN AMERICAN YOUTH which company can sell the most. American greed is evident in the rapidly growing world of

5 technology and is reflected in the bodily shapes of the American people.

The amount of television in which a child watches per day has grown exponentially as technology has progressed. In a Common Sense Media research article it was stated that

“Children age 2-11 saw an average of about 25,600 TV ads per year and that more than 40 percent of their ad exposure was from shows whose audience is not primarily children.” (Boyse,

2010) Marketers know that children are the ones who watch the television and who the message really hits because they are more susceptible to the suggestive nature of these commercials.

“Studies have shown that between 35% and 45% of all commercials on children's television are for food, most of it unhealthy.” (CMCH) This statistic makes up over half of the commercials that are seen by the American youth and are a prime example of how advertising can have an effect on the obesity issue the America is facing. The argument can be made that it is both nature and nurture that effect this disease but this research will show that nature is much more prevalent to this issue. According to the CDC “more than a third of U.S. children ages 2–19 are overweight or obese. “(Childhood Obesity). This is by no means a coincidence, in this growing age of technology children are the main users of televisions. Both child and parent decide whether or not a child is exposed to the television more than the outdoors; this decision will have the largest impact on the child’s upbringing regarding this issue.

Although this topic seems to be so vast that it is almost impossible to measure lasting results from any type of effort being made to end this epidemic, there are some instances where programs are being implemented and are working well to cure this disease. With the epidemic growing more each year (APPENDIX) the White House staff came up with a plan to help reverse the effects of obesity and to help the youth avoid becoming obese over time. This is called the



Lets Move! Campaign and is run by the First Lady Michelle Obama and is a program “ intended to increase the rates of physical activity among children and educate them about nutrition and proper eating.” (Childhood Obesity). Programs like these are popping up all over the United

States and will be beneficial to the cure for this disease.

Programs to eliminate the obesity problem are great ideas but can only be successful if they have the correct type of marketing. It will not do much good to encourage children to have a healthier lifestyle if they still see advertisements for unhealthy foods at every turn. The recommendation of this research is to use that poor advertising time, the time where children would normally see unhealthy meals or foods being offered, and turn the tables. Advertising on television can be used for the better and can show children that a healthy lifestyle is the best way to live. If advertisers use their time slots for healthy foods and healthier lifestyle choices this epidemic can be turned around because it is the suggestions in advertising that lead children to make poor choices. So long as these suggestions are turned from the negative to the positive the

American society has the chance to beat this disease.

There is still hope out there for the American children who are obese or who are becoming so due to their lack of activity and increase in poor eating habits. Marketing companies can easily use their influence for good and reverse the effects that they are having on the lives they touch.

Many parents will agree that a healthy lifestyle for themselves and their children will outweigh the convenience of less expensive foods that will only harm their bodies. There are programs available to help reverse the effects of obesity, and lifestyle choices that can be intertwined with an existing lifestyle in order to avoid obesity. If these changes begin at a young age a healthy lifestyle should be easy to maintain. The battle against obesity is not yet lost, and it would be wise to keep that in mind when making lifestyle choices.







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