Readers with young children frequently turn to parenting magazines for tips on raising healthy kids. While these publications contain helpful articles, a new study found a surprising number of advertisements appearing in the nation's top magazines for parents showed images or products that contradicted health and safety recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Nearly 1 in 6 ads containing at least one offense.
In more than half of these cases (59 percent), the ads promoted messages that could put a child's life at risk, according to findings that will be presented at the 2015 AAP National Conference & Exhibition in Washington, DC. For example, some of the ads displayed images of infants sleeping on their stomachs. This conflicts with the AAP's recommendation that babies be placed on their backs for sleep to decrease the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), which is responsible for more deaths during the first year of life than any other cause in the United States.
The study looked at all advertisements for children's products from the two parenting magazines with highest U.S. circulation between 2009 and 2014. It evaluated how often ads went against AAP recommendations in a variety of categories.
"We had expected to see a handful of contradictions in the safe sleeping category, as previous researchers had shown most pictures of sleeping infants in these magazines depicted unsafe positions, but we were surprised at the sheer number and breadth of categories where we found offenses," said lead author Michael B. Pitt, MD, FAAP, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital.
Dr. Pitt said the findings were cause for concern because repeated exposure to messages in advertisements is shown to change people's behavior related to health decision-making.
"On an individual per-ad basis, there were relatively few egregious contradictions. But our concern is that repeatedly seeing images in with unsafe practices--especially in a place where new and seasoned parents look for advice--can lead parents to assume these activities endorsed by the experts at the magazines and lead to unsafe practices at the home," he said.
"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," Dr. Pitt said. "Many of the offenses were in the imagery used, not the product itself, meaning that the magazines would not likely lose advertisers by implementing certain standards."
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