Parenting magazines in the United States contain advertisements that may promote products and practices that are unsafe for children’s health, a new study suggests.
The ads from two of the most popular parenting magazines conflicted with the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) safety recommendations, according to the researchers.
“It was surprising that about every sixth ad in these parenting magazines had at least one violation of AAP policies,” Dr. Michael Pitt, an assistant professor of paediatrics at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, said.
For the study – that will be presented October 25 at the annual national meeting of the American Academy of Pediatrics in Washington, D.C. – the researchers looked at ads from two U.S. magazines called “Family Fun” and “Parents”. They checked all of the issues that were published from 2009 to 2014.
Three things were evaluated for each ad: the product, the photo, and the words in the ad. The researchers then compared them with recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics’ injury prevention manual, policy statements, and website healthychildren.org.
The images of the ads were the most problematic, the researchers said. According to Dr. Pitt, about 50 percent of the ad images encouraged practices that could be life-threatening to children.
For instance there were ads that showed kids who were not wearing personal flotation devices, also referred to as life jackets or life vests while in a boat (the AAP recommends that children under 12 should always wear life jackets while boating).
Another ad showed children riding their bikes without helmets, babies sleeping on their stomachs (which could lead to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)), toddlers reaching for popcorn (the AAP says that popcorn could represent a choking hazard), and so on.
By comparing the 2014 ads to those from 2009, the researcher found that the ads in the newer issues contained a lot of products and treatments that had not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Dr. Pitt hopes that the study will increase awareness about the harmful messages the ads may convey, especially amongst parents who may be easily influenced by what they see on the glossy pages of a top-selling parenting magazine.
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