What’s a parent to do?

With the NFL regular season kicking off this week, millions of children will be watching football on television with their parents this fall. But what else will they be seeing besides touchdowns and field goals?

Advertisements promoting alcohol and sexual-enhancement drugs.

Professor of Psychology Christy Buchanan, an expert on parent-child relationships, says parents shouldn’t squirm on the couch until each round of beer ads are over, but should take action.

“It is important for parents to address issues and share their values,” says Buchanan, who joined the faculty in 1992. “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.”

Pro football is by far the most popular sport to watch among kids; 66% of kids ages 7-11 say they watch pro football on television. A recent study by the non-profit group Common Sense Media reviewed nearly 6,000 commercials in 60 NFL games last season and found the following:

  • 300 of the ads were for alcohol
  • 40% 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, who is also the author of the book “Adolescents After Divorce,” offers 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.
  • 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.
  • And the simplest method of all, turn off the TV.

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