Ads Displayed Unsafe Parenting Practices

Parenting magazine advertisements showed unsafe parenting practices


Right next to the helpful, informative articles in your favorite parenting magazine could be ads that depict practices that could endanger kids.

That's what the authors of a new study are saying. This study found that almost 1 in 6 ads for kids' products had images that clashed with safe parenting guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

"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 study author Michael B. Pitt, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital, in a press release.

Among the unsafe practices these ads displayed were medications being used incorrectly, unsafe toys like backyard trampolines, kids riding bikes without helmets or swimming without life vests, toddlers eating foods that pose a choking risk and babies sleeping on their stomachs.

Dr. Pitt and team looked at the two most popular parenting magazines in the US between 2009 and 2014. They found that, among the offending ads, 59 percent depicted practices that could put children's lives at risk. One such practice was unsafe sleeping positions for infants. The AAP says infants should be placed on their backs to sleep, but many ads showed infants sleeping on their stomachs — a practice tied to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

The takeaway for parents? Don't assume ads have been vetted for safety.

"On an individual per-ad basis, there were relatively few egregious contradictions," Dr. Pitt said. "But our concern is that repeatedly seeing images 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."

Dr. Pitt and team also said editors of parenting magazines should assess advertising imagery for child safety.

This study will be presented Oct. 25 at the American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference and Exhibition in Washington, DC. Research presented at conferences may not have been peer-reviewed.

Information on funding sources and conflicts of interest was not available at the time of publication.