Open Letter to Nickelodeon
I am a single, working Latina mother of two boys, ages 14 and 1 year old. I’ve enjoyed your programming for years. My teenage son grew up watching your shows on Saturdays. He especially loved Spongebob Squarepants and will still watch it from time to time.
I appreciate your kid-friendly, mom-approved programming.
However, I am writing as a concerned mother regarding your marketing junk food to children. I am fully aware that you are not responsible for what I feed my children every day and that what they are exposed to at home is my responsibility. Believe me I get it.
But, you have a responsibility to our children as well.
Did you know that there are 12.7 million children (ages 2 – 17) who are obese as of 2011 - 2012? Did you know that these numbers were highest among Hispanics (22.4%) and non-Hispanic blacks (20.2%) children and adolescents than non-Hispanic whites (14.1%)?
Television advertising affects children’s health.
Food advertising on TV increases consumption of any available snack foods during and immediately after exposure. Junk food ads on commercial television is also associated with increased overall calorie consumption, higher body mass index, and reduced fruit and vegetable consumption 5 years later.
Disney recently changed its marketing of junk food to children and has increased their profits significantly. Why? Because moms like me are concerned about the children’s health and well-being. Moms, like me, are eager to spend every penny on companies that promote children’s health and well-being. Mothers represent a $2.4 trillion market and are the purchasing decision makers for their families. Latina moms are also the primary consumers for their households. So you see, you can market healthy food options to kids while still maintaining and even increasing your profits.
According to the Center for Disease Control, “children who are obese suffer psychological stress (ie depression, behavioral problems and school issues as well as low self-esteem, low self-reported quality of life in addition to impaired social, physical and emotional functioning.” As a crisis clinician, I encounter children dealing with obesity and the mental health issues that follow. I’ve also treated some of these children as a Child and Family Therapist. They suffer so much simply because they are overweight.
Children and adolescents are not able to see junk food commercials and truly understand how they are being influenced by what they see on television. They are not developmentally able to see a commercial for junk food (such as the ones you show in between programs) and think about the long-term consequences of consuming the junk food you are pushing. They just know that it tastes good and they want it. Kids simply do not have the forethought to see long-term consequences such as becoming an obese adult, which, without positive intervention (and prevention), can lead to health issues such as heart disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome and cancer. Older children and teens can view these commercials, but may not be disciplined enough to choose healthy options for themselves.
Parents, like me, are then left to have the fight of the century when we deny our children the junk food they’ve seen in ads. You as an organization can say, “This isn’t my issue.” However, right now, you have an amazing opportunity to affect positive change in the lives of millions of children by promoting healthy eating, exercising and overall self-care. You can provide advertising that will encourage children to live healthy and happy lives, while also keeping moms like me as your partners.
I want to give you my money.
I want to encourage my children to watch your programming because it is attuned to their emotional and developmental needs. But, with so many ads for junk food on your network, I’m only encouraged to cancel my subscription to Nickelodeon and funnel my hard-earned salary on networks such as Disney that promote health and wellness.
Please, please work with MomsRising and moms like me to provide health-oriented advertisements on your network. We want to partner with companies that promote a positive, healthy lifestyle and take a strong stance on advertisements and marketing to children.
Heiddi Zalamar, LMHC