Navigation Links
Cartoon Characters Prod Kids to Nag for Unhealthy Foods

By Serena Gordon
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Aug. 17 (HealthDay News) -- If you're a parent, you've no doubt heard plaintive wails from your child as you traverse the treat-filled aisles of the grocery store.

And, you may have wondered, what makes even preschoolers yearn so desperately for the character-shaped marshmallow cereal? Or the prepackaged frozen meal in the brightly colored box?

New research suggests one culprit: those cutesy cartoon characters used to sell foods in TV ads.

"The purpose of this study was to explore the mechanism behind an interesting problem we face in the U.S. Since 3- to 5-year-old children aren't shopping, how do low-nutritional food and beverages get into the house? It's the 'nag factor.' It's how 3- to 5-year-olds get their parents to get them foods they might not otherwise want to purchase," explained the study's co-author, Dina Borzekowski, an associate professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore.

Results of the study are published in the August issue of the Journal of Children and Media.

A key reason for concern about young kids nagging their parents to get low-nutrition/high-calorie foods is that more and more of America's youngsters are overweight or obese. And, the highly processed, high-sugar foods and drinks that kids want are part of the reason there's an obesity epidemic.

To find out how tots are so good at getting these products into the house, the researchers interviewed 64 mothers of children between 3 and 5 years old. The mothers' average age was 38, and 56 percent of the women had a graduate degree. Most (88 percent) of the women were married, and 68 percent were employed. Household income was more than $60,000 a year for 93 percent of the mothers.

The average home in the study had two televisions, and three children in the study had a TV in their bedroom. According to the moms, kids spent about 39 minutes a day in front of an electronic screen, with TV using up the bulk of that time.

While overall media use didn't seem to influence the amount of nagging, the researchers found that a familiarity with certain commercial TV characters did. Moms cited three factors -- product packaging, cartoon characters and exposure to commercials -- as main contributors to nagging.

One (unnamed) mother of a 3-year-old girl told the researchers that she had noticed the growing influence of cartoon characters. "I definitely see it coming on in the last 4 months. She is aware of more characters. Doesn't know what the product is but she wants it. I'm shocked by her awareness . .. she is motivated by ads. She'll have full-on tantrums," she said.

Parents said they used a variety of techniques to deal with nagging -- some effective, some not at all. Strategies included giving in (more than 70 percent of mothers admitted to this one), yelling, ignoring, distracting, calm consistency, avoidance, limiting commercial exposure, rules and negotiation, allowing alternative items, and explanation.

Borzekowski said if you're the type who just can't say no to your child, the most effective strategy for you might be to have someone else watch your child while you go shopping. "If you don't bring your child into the cereal aisle, you won't have that same battle," she said.

Another strategy that appeared to be effective was setting up rules and negotiations ahead of time -- for example, allowing your children only one small item that they really want per trip.

"Trying to keep them out of the reach of marketers by limiting commercial TV can help, but there's a lot of pressure to watch what other kids are watching," said Borzekowski.

"One of the most fundamental tenets of child behavior management is consistency," said Rahil Briggs, director of the Healthy Steps Program at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City.

"Pretend that you and your child are walking down the street, and everything your child wants is on the other side of the fence. Your child is going to push on every board to see if one gives. If one of those boards is loose, you just bought yourself six more months of the child pushing on the fence. And, some children are very motivated," she said.

If you give in at the grocery store after having repeatedly said no, this "reinforces some very unfortunate behavior, and your child will do this in every setting, not just at the store," explained Briggs.

She recommends, "offering a choice in the absence of real choice. If Johnny wants the character cereal, but can't have that, offer him a choice between two healthier cereals. This allows him to exercise his free will and choice, but within the parameters you've set."

"If you can stand firm and follow through and stay consistent, the amount your child nags will decrease for all but the single-most persistent child. Children are smart. They stop doing things that don't work, and they'll adapt their behavior," she said.

More information

To learn more about healthy family media habits, visit the Nemours Foundation KidsHealth Web site.

SOURCES: Dina L.G. Borzekowski, Ed.D., associate professor, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Md.; Rahil D. Briggs, Psy.D., director, Healthy Steps program, Montefiore Medical Center, and assistant professor of pediatrics, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York City; August 2011 Journal of Children and Media

Copyright©2010 ScoutNews,LLC.
All rights reserved  

Related medicine news :

1. Cartoon Network's MOVE IT MOVEMENT TOUR Stops in Seattle Market
2. Cartoon Characters Sell Kids on Unhealthy Foods
3. Cartoon Branding Affects Kids Cereal Choice, Regardless of Taste
4. Viewers look to TV characters to advise how to talk about sexual health
5. Most Americans Think Its Others Who Are Unhealthy
6. Taxing unhealthy foods may encourage healthier eating habits
7. Researchers recommend curriculum on unhealthy substance use
8. Four Unhealthy Behaviors Linked to Premature Death
9. Hookahs an Unhealthy Hit Among Privileged Young Adults
10. Online games new marketing tool for unhealthy foods
11. Researchers develop magnetic molecular machines to deliver drugs to unhealthy cells
Post Your Comments:
Related Image:
Cartoon Characters Prod Kids to Nag for Unhealthy Foods
(Date:11/26/2015)... ... 26, 2015 , ... Somu Sivaramakrishnan announced today that he ... now offers travelers, value and care based Travel Services, including exclusive pricing on ... as, cabin upgrades and special amenities such as, shore excursions, discounted fares, travel ...
(Date:11/26/2015)... ... , ... PRMA Plastic Surgery is updating their record books yet again with ... flap breast reconstruction surgery! , “What an accomplishment for the PRMA team, says ... it’s an honor to have served all of these women.” , PRMA is one ...
(Date:11/26/2015)... Karnataka (PRWEB) , ... November ... ... innovative online platform for mental health and wellness consultation, has collaborated with ... to holistically address their reader’s queries on topics on mental and emotional ...
(Date:11/25/2015)... Indianapolis, IN (PRWEB) , ... November 25, 2015 ... ... clean water accessible for all, Water For Empowerment ™ attracts volunteers together ... on clean water by empowering women as key stakeholders in the process. The ...
(Date:11/25/2015)... ... November 25, 2015 , ... ... recognized once again for its stellar workplace culture with the company’s Cincinnati office ... , Medical Solutions’ Cincinnati office was named a finalist in Cincinnati Business Courier’s ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:11/26/2015)... 26, 2015 Research and Markets ( ) ... Pacemaker Market Outlook to 2019 - Rise in Cardiac Disorders ... report to their offering. Boston ... Boston scientific and others. --> ... Biotronik, Boston scientific and others. ...
(Date:11/26/2015)... November 26, 2015 ... the "2016 Future Horizons and Growth ... Testing Market: Supplier Shares, Country Segment Forecasts, ... their offering. --> ) ... "2016 Future Horizons and Growth Strategies in ...
(Date:11/26/2015)... November 26, 2015 ... "Self Administration of High Viscosity Drugs" report ... has announced the addition of the "Self ... their offering. --> Research and Markets ... the "Self Administration of High Viscosity Drugs" ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: