06 February 2012

Junk Food, Kids and Junk TV

I read an article at Lifehacker recently about a Cancer Council website which ranks the shows on television using a 'junk meter' that purports to categorise how much junk food is advertised in association with these shows.
Here is a screengrab of the worst contenders:
I don't know the methodology behind the 'Junk Rating', but surely they could have gone up to ten?
I must say I am not surprised at the way this looks. I asked my wife to have a guess at what the worst ones were, and she guessed correctly that reality shows would make a decent showing on the list, along with sports. Its not really shocking to note that kids movies also fare about the same (Kung Fu Panda and The Simpsons Movie are the ones mentioned up there^).
One thing that did surprise me a little (or at least would have if I wasn't already suspicious of their motivations), was Sunrise's inclusion in the worst offenders group. Sunrise which so often positions itself as a respectful commenter on such issues as childhood obesity, or undesirable things happening in our society. David Koch and Melissa Doyle like to hold themselves up pretty high as crusaders against the more nefarious and undesirable things out there at work against their idea of a more wholesome lifestyle. Yet here we see that given their prominent placing in the time-slot likely to catch kids on their way to school, they are far from living up to this ideal.
One would also think that the kids watching Sunrise are also a somewhat begrudging audience, having to put up with this at the imposition of their parents. I too remember similar forced news consumption as a kid; but at least back then it was news, and not whatever it is you call these morning shows.
Anyhow, that mini-rant aside, I actually like the idea behind this site; to help raise awareness of junk food advertising is I think a good thing. But I worry that doing so justifies the view that junk food advertising is one of the main problems associated with childhood obesity, when surely the parents letting their kids have junk food should be cited as a major contributing factor. At the end of the day, you are responsible for what your kid eats.
I was going to add an amusing picture of an obese child here, until I realised that I couldn't find such a thing, only tragic ones.
The site for instance says that if junk food advertising wasn't bombarding our kids during their favourite shows then "A trip to the supermarket wouldn’t be a battle between parents and kids who want the latest snack or the free toy that was advertised during their favourite show". And then there is this slightly dubious claim; "Parents have the right to know what TV is feeding their kids so that they can make the best decisions for their family". I mean I get it, but this kind of a tool would only really be useful for the kind of parent who lets their children be the primary provider of their own sustenance. And lets face it, if you cant override your child in the supermarket, then what choice do you have overriding them in what television shows they watch?
Though if the did do their own shopping, it would be pretty cute...
Then purpose of the guide is given as: "So you can [...] find out what your kids are consuming on TV and make healthier viewing choices". Again, I can see good intentions, and benefits in the site, but I think it is being presented in the wrong manner. You shouldn't use this information to just make people watch a different show, but in order to affect changes in the programming more directly, whether it be through government regulation or some other (nicer) means. But to just try and get your kids to watch different shows, when you cant even stop them from haranguing you at the supermarket, seems a bit futile.

That website again was: http://www.fatfreetv.com.au/

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