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Cartoon Characters Prod Kids to Nag for Unhealthy Foods
Date:8/17/2011

ut 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.

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