Don't let ads take the fun out of football

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

On September 10, the NFL kicked off its season and about 5.3 million children ages 2 to 17 will watch football with their parents this fall. Pro football is by far the most popular sport among kids: 65.7 percent of kids ages 7-11 say they watch pro football on television. But what are your children watching besides football?

Advertisements promoting alcohol and sexual-enhancement drugs.

These ads have increased significantly during broadcasts of NFL games in recent years, leaving parents of children who enjoy watching the games wondering what to do.

Christy Buchanan, an expert on parent-child relationships and a professor of psychology at Wake Forest University, addressed the effect these ads have on kids and how parents can handle commercial breaks that challenge family values.

A recent study by the non-profit group Common Sense Media reviewed nearly 60 games, more than 180 hours of coverage, watched nearly 6,000 commercials and showed the following:

  • 300 of the ads were for alcohol
  • 40 percent of the games included advertisements for erectile-dysfunction drugs
  • 500 of the advertisements involved significant levels of violence, including gun fights, explosions, and murders
  • 80 of the advertisements involved significant levels of sexuality, including scenes about prostitution and strippers.

Buchanan offered the following tips to parents trying to figure out what to do when a kindergartner asks, "What is Viagra?" or a teenager comments on how much fun people are having in a beer commercial:

Take a "values moment." Leave the TV on, but talk about family values. For older children (middle school age and up), parents can use the opportunity to engage children in conversation, particularly about issues such as drinking. "It is important for parents to address issues and share their values," Buchanan said. "So, when beer commercials come on, talk about your views on drinking. There are so many societal messages that say 'drinking makes life fun.' This is a parent's opportunity to say what they think and start a discussion."

Switch channels and find another show. For younger children, hit the flashback button to Animal Planet or SpongeBob on the remote control and then go back to the game in two minutes.

Mute the TV. Without the sound, commercials lose a lot of their impact. Parents can also use the time to talk about what's happening in the game.

Turn off the TV!