DON'T watch commercials
Thanks to DVR, no one has to sit through commercials anymore, which is a very good thing considering what researchers have discovered about the effect of food marketing on kids. In 2006, the Institute of Medicine issued a report stating that ads contribute to less-healthy diets for kids in the short term in addition to posing long-term health risks. "The research shows that advertisements during children's programs are usually for foods that parents don't want their children eating in excess, like snacks and sweets," says Francis. "This research also shows that children tend to request the foods they see advertised."
Not only do commercials sell our kids on unhealthy food -- and an idea of unhealthy food -- but the way they interrupt programming may make it tough for kids to understand the stories they're watching, Stamm says. That's because the part of the brain that retains short-term information isn't well developed in kids, so after watching a commercial or two, children are likely to forget the thread of the story they were viewing, and by the time it resumes, they'll see it as a whole new story. "What this is doing is wiring the brain for quick shifts of information," says Stamm, "which is the opposite of what you want to do. You want to increase their attention span."