We are constantly bombarded with advertising images in the media; the parenting media world is no different. I am frequently cringing at images I see in parenting magazines, on websites and on social media that portray unsafe parenting practices in a positive light.
Recently, a study was presented at a meeting of the American Academy of Pediatrics and “discovered that a significant number of advertisements in two of the most popular parenting magazines in the U.S. contained ads with images that show violations of several AAP safety recommendations” (Parenting magazines show unsafe behavior in Ads, 2015).
The study, run by Michael Pitt, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis, entailed a team of researchers pouring over both the 2009 & 2014 issues of the two most popular and widely circulated parenting magazines, parents and family fun.
“All told, the team reviewed 3,218 advertisements, 1,845 ads in 2009 and 1,373 ads in 2014. The ads were cross-checked against published AAP recommendations including policy statements, clinical practice guidelines and AAP textbooks. Any ad that in some way contradicted these recommendations, either the product itself or the depictions in the ad, was flagged as a violation. The initial result was reviewed by a separate team for accuracy and consistency” (Parenting magazines show unsafe behavior in Ads, 2015).
The results of the study found that nearly 17% of the advertisements showed one or more violations of AAP recommendations.
There is no upside for any company to use images that can either consciously or subconsciously influence consumers in a way that can hurt children. There is a blatant lack of research and fact checking when it comes to advertising in the parenting world. These constant, unsafe images have the ability to influence what many people deem to be “normal” behavior, when in fact; those behaviors can put their children in harm’s way.
For example, “Seeing an infant sound asleep on his or her stomach in an advertisement may persuade new parents to go against their pediatrician’s advice, even if implicitly” (Parenting magazines show unsafe behavior in Ads, 2015). In addition, many advertisements showed “choking hazards, children’s medications deemed unsafe or not approved by the AAP, and lack of helmets, life preservers or other safety gear” (Parenting magazines show unsafe behavior in Ads, 2015).
The remedy here is simple; there is a need for consumers, advertisers and companies to do their due diligence. Advertisers and the companies who produce said products both need to either do more research or work directly with the AAP when producing advertisements that involve products geared towards children. Parents also need to be aware that just because something is being advertised or even sold, does not mean that it’s safe.