This post was written by my guest blogger and dietetic intern, Ruthann Sampson, MS. I have had the pleasure of knowing and working with Ruthann for over 4 years. She is just about to complete her dietetic internship at the prestigious Yale-New Haven Hospital and has a special interest in pediatrics. She has done a great job on this blog and there is more to come from Ruthann!
As a parent, you are the food gatekeeper for your home. Thus, the first step you can take is to choose what items you purchase and serve to the children, regardless of what food may be featured in the media. You can prevent your child from having certain foods simply by the virtue of not keeping them in your home. This ties back into following the Division of Responsibility addressed in Katie’s previous posts.
Despite your good efforts on the home front, your child may still have access to less-than-healthy foods outside of your home. Arm them with the ability to understand the effects of food advertising so that they are able to make good decisions even when they’re away from your watchful eye. If you need help getting started in your discussion, PBS offers a kid-friendly interactive website called “Don’t Buy It: Get Media Smart!”. This website includes activities and discussion topics geared towards helping children question what they see in the media. Questions they suggest include: “What sound effects or music does the commercial use? Do the sounds make it more exciting?” and “Are there celebrities in the commercial? Do you think the celebrity really uses the product?”
If you prefer to take your discussion to the streets, then perhaps the next time you see a billboard for a soda or a commercial for food ask your child questions about it. Open up a discussion about why your child thinks a company would have a commercial or a poster. Your statement could be as simple as “See that billboard? Why do you think a company would pay to put that up there? Are they trying to get you to do something?” Discuss how companies advertise because they want you to buy their product, even though it might not be healthy for you.
As Mark Twain said “Many a small thing has been made large by the right kind of advertising.” As a parent, you have the power to help your child to avoid the negative impact of the glamour and exaggeration in food media.
by Ruthann Sampson