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Childhood Obesity Findings

Kids today are bombarded by marketing and advertising at a dizzying pace. Childhood obesity has risen exponentially and a recent study suggests ultra-processed foods make up 2/3rds of a child's diet in the United States. The combination of Big Tech and Fast Food make for a very sinister combination. Below we have aggregated and analyzed key research to show how children are being tracked and manipulated at the cost of their health and well-being, and eventually at the cost of society.

If Big Tech is unregulated, its unsavory marriage to junk food and other unhealthy industries can wreak havoc on a child's health and well-being. It already has, according to multiple research reports. This must stop. We invite researchers in this field to send us your research so we can add to the open dialogue we must have with Big Tech and Fast Food. 

Research Summary

As children spend more than 9 hours a day online, they are being tracked by advertisers and marketers who have one goal in mind. To make billions of dollars at the expense of our children.

We aggregated research reports that show a clear path between advertising and children's decisions which are taken when they are in key cognitive developmental stages.

Big Tech collects data on our children, and there is little regulation in place to protect children from receiving constant messaging from aggressive advertising (AA) This carries serious implications and outcomes for kids.

Key Takeaways

  • ​The CDC released recent data in March of 2021, outlining clearly the behaviors that influence excess weight gain

  • They include eating high-calorie, low-nutrient foods and beverages, poor sleep routines and not getting enough physical activity.

  • They clearly outlined that children who spend too much time on sedentary activities which can be up to 9 hours or more a day on screen devices gain weight.

  • They suggest that children are encouraged at home and at school to consume healthy food choices and to be physically active. Being fit , reducing screen time and eating well leads to a healthier weight, which in return leads to fewer chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, some cancers, and heart disease.

  • There’s also evidence that early TV habits may have long-lasting effects. Two studies that followed children from birth found that TV viewing in childhood predicts obesity risk well into adulthood and even into their mid-life

  • Another shocking statistic: only 2 Percent of Kids in the U.S. eat healthy food. Based on diet recommendations established by the United States Department of Agriculture, only 2 percent of children have a healthy diet. In fact, in a survey of high school seniors, only three out of every 10 report eating vegetables “nearly” every day. Of the vegetables consumed, one-fourth is in the form of french fries or potato chips. Delicious, yes. Healthy, definitely not!

  • Unnecessary Snacking Leads to Weight Gain - Thirty years ago, kids ate just one snack a day, whereas now they are trending toward three snacks, resulting in an additional 200 calories a day. Children and teens in states with strong laws that restrict the sale of unhealthy snack foods and beverages in school gained less weight over a three-year period than those living in states with no such policies. And with the increase of screen time, children often mindlessly munch on high calorie, nutrient poor snacks.​

[1] McAlister, A. R., & Cornwell, T. B. (2009). Preschool children's persuasion knowledge: The contribution of theory of mind. Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, 28(2), 175-185.

[2] Moses, L. J., & Baldwin, D. A. (2005). What can the study of cognitive development reveal about children's ability to appreciate and cope with advertising? Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, 24(2), 186-201.

[3] Rozendaal, E., Lapierre, M. A., Van Reijmersdal, E. A., & Buijzen, M. (2011). Reconsidering advertising literacy as a defense against advertising effects. Media Psychology, 14(4), 333-354.

[4] Buijzen, M. (2007). Reducing children's susceptibility to commercials: Mechanisms of factual and evaluative advertising interventions. Media Psychology, 9(2), 411-430.

[5] Lapierre, M.A., Fleming-Milici, F., Rozendaal, E., McAlister, A.R., & Castonguay, J. (2017)  The Effect of Advertising on Children and Adolescents. Pediatrics, 140(140S2). doi:10.1542/peds.2016-1758V

Sources

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Guidelines for Parents
 

  • For most children, overweight is the result of unhealthy eating patterns (too many calories) and too little physical activity. Since these habits are established in early childhood, efforts to prevent obesity should begin early.

  • FOCUS ON QUALITY AND QUANTITY - Weight loss is not a good approach for most young children, since their bodies are growing and developing.

  • Overweight children should not be put on a diet unless a physician supervises one for medical reasons. A restrictive diet may not supply the energy and nutrients needed for normal growth and development.  

  • Starting at an early age, encourage and promote healthy eating behaviors, regular physical activity and reduced sedentary activity (such as watching television, tech time and video games). They can be accomplished by following the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The Dietary Guidelines provide general diet and lifestyle recommendations for healthy Americans ages 2 years and over (not for younger children and infants).

  • The most recent edition of the Dietary Guidelines can be found on www.ChooseMyPlate.gov.

  • Following these guidelines can help promote health and reduce risk for chronic diseases.

  • Model the behavior you want your children to adopt.

  • Focus on good health, not a certain weight goal. Teach and model healthy and positive attitudes toward food and physical activity without emphasizing body weight.

  • Focus on the family. Do not set overweight children apart. Involve the whole family and work to gradually change the family's physical activity and eating habits.

  • Establish daily meal and snack times, and eating together as frequently as possible. Make a wide variety of healthful foods available based on the Food Guide Pyramid for Young Children. Determine what food is offered and when, and let the child decide whether and how much to eat.

  • Plan sensible portions. Use the Food Guide Pyramid for Young Children as a guide.

  •  Snacks, sweets and fats 

  • MINDLESS OVERCONSUMPTION - Discourage eating meals or snacks while watching TV. Eating in front of the TV may make it difficult to pay attention to feelings of fullness and may lead to overeating.

  • Buy fewer high-calorie, low-nutrient foods. Help children understand that sweets and high-fat treats (such as candy, cookies, or cake) are not everyday foods. Don't deprive children of occasional treats, however. This can make them more likely to overeat.

  • Avoid labeling foods as "good" or "bad." All foods in moderation can be part of a healthy diet.

  • Involve children in planning, shopping, and preparing meals. Use these activities to understand children's food preferences, teach children about nutrition, and encourage them to try a wide variety of foods.

  • Make the most of snacks. Plan healthy snacks at specific times.  Focus on maximum nutrition - fruits, vegetables, grains, low-sugar cereals, low-fat dairy products, and lean meats and meat alternatives. Avoid excessive amounts of fruit juices, which contains calories, but fewer nutrients than the fruits they come from. 

  • Encourage physical activity. Participate in family physical activity time on a regular basis, such as walks, bike rides, hikes, and active games. Support your children's organized physical activities. Provide a safe, accessible place outside for play.

  • Limit the amount of time children watch television, play video games, and work on the computer to 1 to 2 hours per day AND make sure they are taking regular breaks away from their devices for ‘moments of movement.’ The average American child spends about 24 hours each week watching television. Reducing sedentary activities helps increase physical activity.