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Doctors: Kids Are Too Vulnerable To Ads

Children and teens need to be taught to be more skeptical viewers of ads, says a leading group of pediatricians.

"Children and adolescents view more than 40,000 ads per year on TV alone," according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Kids younger than 8 years old "do not understand the notion of intent to sell and frequently accept advertising claims at face value," the committee reports.

The AAP committee says pediatricians should call on Congress to ban junk food ads during programming mainly viewed by young children. Parents and pediatricians should work with school boards to address advertising in schools, says the committee.

"Advertisers have slowly but steadily infiltrated school systems around the country," the committee writes. "The '3Rs' have now become the '4Rs,' with the fourth R being 'retail.' Ads are now appearing on school buses, in gymnasiums, on book covers, and even in bathroom stalls," notes the AAP.

Today's kids see ads in many places, including TV, the Internet, and magazines, and need "media literacy" lessons, the committee says.

The committee singled out some specific types of ads as problems.

Half the ads young people see feature food, according to the AAP committee. But "Healthy foods are advertised less than 3 percent of the time," according to the report. "Children rarely see a food advertisement for broccoli."

Also, the committee says TV ads for erectile dysfunction drugs should air only after 10 p.m., and pediatricians' offices should only subscribe to magazines without tobacco and alcohol ads.

The AAP's committee on communications published its report on kids and advertising in Pediatrics' December issue.

SOURCES: American Academy of Pediatrics committee on communications, Pediatrics, December 2006; Vol. 118: pp. 2563-2569. News release, American Academy of Pediatrics.

By Miranda Hitti
Reviewed by Louise Chang

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