TV programs for kids make an effort to fight childhood obesity - East Valley Tribune: Get Out

TV programs for kids make an effort to fight childhood obesity

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Posted: Tuesday, July 12, 2005 6:50 am | Updated: 8:13 am, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Cookie Monster sings, ‘‘C is for cookie that’s good enough for me.’’ But in ‘‘Sesame Street,’’ Cookie Monster and his friends are starting to promote fruits and veggies. Cookies will become a ‘‘sometimes’’ food.

‘‘Sesame Street’’ is among a halfdozen children’s TV shows putting the spotlight on eating healthily and moving the body. The shows appear on Public Broadcasting Service, the Disney Channel and Nickelodeon.

Studies have shown that the amount of time spent watching TV and the content of TV shows are a factor in the rise in children’s obesity nationwide. The new shows hope to be part of the solution, instead of adding to the

problem.

A RESPONSE TO A CRISIS

‘‘Sesame Street’s’’ current season focusing on children’s health is a direct response to the obesity crisis, said Rosemarie Truglio, vice president of education and research for Sesame Workshop. ‘‘The message is very comprehensive,’’ she said. ‘‘It defines what is healthy food and talks about why eating healthy foods is good for you. We’re hoping that kids seeing the characters they love eating some greens will help them be openminded about eating the same way.

‘‘The other message is about how getting up and moving is good for you . . .’’

Oscar the grouch sings ‘‘The Worm Workout’’ to the tune of The Village People’s ‘‘YMCA’’ as Slimey and the other worms stretch and wiggle to the beat.

DON’T MAKE IT TOO OBVIOUS

The Disney Channel and Nickelodeon also are adding nutrition and physical activity topics into their series.

‘‘In the conception of Nick Jr., which is for preschoolers, we wanted to make sure that we developed a curriculum to get preschoolers up and active while watching,’’ said Cyma Zarghami, president of Nickelodeon Television.

Zarghami said shows tackling physical movement were ‘‘not borne out of the obesity epidemic but to help kids relax and take a break from overscheduled lives.’’.

Last September, Nickelodeon introduced ‘‘LazyTown,’’ a show for 4- to 7-year-olds that features 8-year-old Stephanie and her neighborhood friends.

It’s important not to be preachy, Zarghami said. ‘‘If we want kids to listen to a healthy message, we have to be creative and as clever and entertaining as possible, then insert some message of value.’’

KEEPING IT REAL

Kids prefer to hear constructive messages on health, rather than prohibitive ones, said Eleo Hensleigh, chief marketing officer for the Disney ABC Television.

‘‘It’s about getting up, bending, twisting, turning, jumping up and down,’’ Hensleigh said. ‘‘The two things that we’re careful about when talking to them is that the messages are meaningful and relevant to their lives and that we not to talk down and not be preachy. What we’re saying is that there are better

choices.’’

IT’S ONLY A START

Some organizations and pediatricians that monitor children’s media welcome the recent developments.

‘‘Any time you can give kids a message that supports their healthy development, it’s going to be a good thing,’’ said Christy Glaubke, associate director for the children and the media program at Children Now, a media watch group.

Dr. Mark Colon, a pediatrician at Children’s Hospital of Orange County in Orange, Calif., said, ‘‘When kids watch TV, you want them to see and hear messages that are educational and self-improving. These shows do have a place. I would rather have them address the issue, as opposed to dealing with subjects that are inappropriate for kids.’’

But watching those shows should never be a substitute for time spent being physically active outdoors, he said.

Colon also is concerned that kids can become confused when TV commercials tout less-healthy choices. He would rather kids didn’t watch the commercials, but suggests that if they do, that parents and use the ads as gentle teaching tools.

Ask your kids questions about the content of the ads, said Ranny Levy, founder of the Coalition for Quality Children’s Media.

But the best thing parents can do for their kids, Levy said, is probably one of the toughest: ‘‘Turn off the TV and go for a walk, or play outside with your kids.’’

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