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Barbara F. Meltz writes the Globe's Child Caring column. She is author of "Put Yourself in Their Shoes, Understanding How Your Children See the World," and a frequent speaker to parent groups. Join her chat on the first and third Monday of the month at noon.
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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Preteens see the most TV food ads

We all know our kids see a lot of food advertised on television, but a new study released today by the Kaiser Family Foundation details just how much and exactly what kind. It's not Fuji apples.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the study is that it's preteens who see the most TV food ads: ads for candy and snacks, cereal and fast food, in that order. And you thought it was preschoolers? They see plenty, too, 12 food ads a day, but because parents have more control of the stations they view, like PBS, they are less exposed than preteens, who see 21 food ads a day. That's 7,600 a year. The study is the largest ever conducted of TV food advertising to children.

Considering that preteens already are at a stage of development where they tend to be aware of and unhappy about changes in their body; that they are developmentally most easily influenced by peer behaviors; that childhood obesity is on the rise; and that preteens are just beginning to have money of their own to spend, there's a lot of -- forgive the pun -- food for thought here. What's more, the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood points out that this is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg: "At the same time [that preteens are targeted by the food ads], food marketers market to children in school and increasingly use newer technologies – such as the Internet and cell phones – to maintain a constant presence in children’s lives," CCFC's Susan Linn says.

Posted by Barbara Meltz at 10:31 AM
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