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Ads are not parenting primers. Still, they shouldn't promote unsafe behavior with dangerous depictions. Yet, a substantial number do, according to a study reported by MediaPost.
The study of 3,000 ads in two major parenting magazines, Parents and Family Fun, found that one in six ads, or 500 of them, showed kids or parents engaged in unsafe practices. University of Minnesota researchers judged the ads' safety using guidelines issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
In the carefree world of advertising, children are depicted riding bikes without helmets and sailing boats without life vests. Ads also promote medications for children too young for them per the FDA. Babies are seen sleeping on their stomachs, contradicting efforts to combat Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) with guidance to put babies to bed on their backs.
Other instances of poor choices on the parts of advertisers showed parents using frowned-upon feeding practices and kids playing with unsafe toys. Ads depicted kids using walkers and crib bumpers, which is discouraged by pediatricians.
According to the researchers, more than half of the ads deemed unsafe showed behavior that endangered a child's life. Lead researcher Michael Pitt told Live Science that ads subtly shape parents' ideas of acceptable behavior.
Hence, the danger. "Our concern is that repeatedly seeing images with unsafe practices -- especially in a place where new and seasoned parents look for advice -- can lead parents to assume these activities are endorsed by the experts at the magazines and lead to unsafe practices at home."
Pitt says he was surprised by the results. He did not expect to see so many unsafe ads depicting such a wide range of unsafe practices. His hope is that publication of the study will lead to greater awareness of the potential pitfalls of disregarding these dangerous depictions.
The researchers hope parents will advocate for safer ads but does not relieve magazines of responsibility. "We suggest the editors consider basic screening of the content in their advertising to ensure the images and products comply with the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics prior to publication."
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