Q: I have 3 children (15 mos, 6.5 years, and 8.5 years old). My husband and I are greatly concerned by the commercials that are played on television, especially during “family” events like football or NASCAR races. We think the most disturbing commercials are the ones for horror movies and violent movies because of the possibility of anxiety and nightmares for the kids. I have contacted the FCC and NASCAR and they said that these commercials are controlled by the networks; that I basically have to contact each network one by one to voice my concerns. Where can I find information backing up my concerns that these types of visual images are harmful to my young children?
-Anxious Advocate in Elkridge, MD
A: Dear Anxious Advocate,
You are right to be concerned, and I commend you for doing something about it! In a recent post, we discussed the three major health outcomes associated with exposure to violent media: desensitization, fear, and aggression. If you do decide to contact individual network, there is a good deal of research that you can use to back up these concerns—check out our online resources regarding media violence and, for direct links to studies, the CMCH Database of Research.
As consumers, we can create change by voting with our voices and our wallets. Write a letter to the executive of the networks and products expressing your feelings both positive and negative. Here are some tips for writing an effective letter.
In the meantime, if you do choose to watch football and NASCAR with your kids, record them using a DVR and skip through the commercials (you could even start watching just 10 or 15 minutes late, so it still has that "live" effect but allows you to skip ahead). Although the programs themselves are also likely to contain a good deal of advertising through product placement, skipping commercials will cut out the obvious violence of movies you’d prefer that your kids not see.
>>Related question: How do I handle inappropriate commercials during sports television?
Enjoy your media and use them wisely,