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Does Your Child Rely on ‘The Nag Factor’?

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Cancer related image Photo: Getty Images

Yesterday I went to a big box store to buy a birthday present for my 6-year-old niece. With my children grown, it’s been sometime since I’ve perused the toy aisle so I wandered a few minutes trying to get a grip on what the “must have” toys were.

During my exploration, in aisle after aisle, I ran into numerous mother-child “conversations.” Each verbal exchange involved a child holding a toy with a death grip and using various methods of persuasion — from reasoned to desperation — to convince his or her bewildered parent to buy it.

I believe the human behavior I witnessed was what Dina Borzekowski, an associate professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health calls “The Nag Factor” — the tendency of children, who are bombarded with marketers' messages, to unrelentingly request advertised items.

Certainly living in the information age has enriched societies with more knowledge than mankind has ever had before and a lot of good has come from it. But one downside of the information revolution may be the barrage of useless chatter that is nearly impossible to filter out.

In 2006, the American Academy of Pediatrics found our children were exposed to more than 40,000 advertising messages each year from television, magazines, the Internet, even at school. At that time, the authors of the article, all members of the Committee on Communications, warned us these innocuous-seeming advertisements could be harming our kids.

“This exposure may be contributing significantly to childhood and adolescent obesity, poor nutrition, and cigarette and alcohol use,” they wrote.

Indeed. Between 1980 and 2004, the prevalence of obesity more than tripled among children and adolescents. Today, one-in-three of all U.S. children are overweight or obese, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI).

Obesity is a well-established risk factor for chronic diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Research shows obesity and physical inactivity may account for as much as 30 percent of several major cancer types.

Add a Comment2 Comments

My kids are still too young but I'm sure I will likely be one of those parents ignoring my children as they get older. At their age right now I may, from time to time, be guilty of giving in temporarily and then taking toys away at the last minute. It allows me to shop, doesn't annoy all the other customers who will give you dirty looks if your 2 year old begins to cry-- cause god forbid a two year old cried, and it gives the kids temporary ownership of the toy.

At the end of the day it is up to the parent to buy certain toys, food, etc. but the industry knows that if they can get the children to want their products then they're golden. Thanks for the article.


September 2, 2011 - 7:13am
EmpowHER Guest

I thought this was going to talk about parents nagging children into doing things, not the other way around! Maybe they learn from us naggy mums!

September 2, 2011 - 3:44am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.