Just Google it!

1 May


Elementary/middle school computer class involved learning how to type and playing the Oregon Trail. Even when I entered high school, learning about the media was a different experience than when I came to college. Sure, we learned that Wikipedia isn’t always the greatest source for a paper but I was far from being media literate. The Center for Media Literacy defines media literacy as the ability to access, analyze, evaluate, and create media in a variety of ways. “To become media literate is not to memorize facts or statistics about the media, but rather to learn to raise the right questions about what you are watching, reading or listening to.”

So, who is responsible for teaching children about media literacy? The News Literacy Project is a national educational program that teaches critical-thinking skills in order to be a smart consumer of information across all different media platforms. Former member of the Federal Communications Commissions, Michael Copps, said, “Our goal should be that every American possesses the skills to discern news from infotainment, fact from opinion, and trustworthy information sources from untrustworthy.” This program reaches students in New York, Virginia, Maryland, Chicago, and Washington. Journalists and teachers are pairing up in the classroom to start a conversation with students about media literacy.

Are schools the right place for teaching media literacy or should it be in the home? Elevate America, created by Microsoft, provides technology skills training to help people find employment. Training and resources are available online and everyone is eligible to participate. Elevate America targets a much older audience and most of the lessons are taught online. However, if someone is not very “media literate” how are they able to access Elevate America’s training tools?

Learning how and why media messages are constructed is an important lesson that I think should be taught early on in life. “Our world is now filled with a firehose of information coming at us 24 hours per day,” said Gary Knell, president and CEO of NPR. “That’s why it is more important than ever that we learn how to separate fact from opinion and become fully information literate. NLP’s goals are so important as our young people inherit the world from older generations.” kids__computers_0005 WP 5/7


Not so Happy Meal

26 Apr


When was the first time you went to McDonalds? It seems as if McDonald’s targets young children by promoting certain movies and including a toy. I remember getting a toy in my Happy Meal and being pretty darn excited. However, the actual meal was not one of much nutritional value and my mother did not let me go very often. Today our world faces a childhood obesity crisis and maybe it is time fast food restaurants stop targeting children.

In Sao Paulo, Brazil, Procon agency is fining McDonalds for $1.6 million dollars as well as other fast food companies. The agency’s top lawyer, Renan Ferraciolli, argued, “There’s no need to appeal as they do to children without the maturity or the rationality to enter the market as consumers.” In the United States we face a similar challenge and unhealthy food is still being advertised to children.

A study by the Center for Science in the Public Interest investigated kids meals by surveying about 3,500 different kids’ meal combinations and found that, “kids’ meals failed to meet nutritional standards 97 percent of the time.” Margo Wootan, CSPI nutrition policy director, mentioned that, “Most chains seem stuck in a time warp, serving up the same old meals based on chicken nuggets, burgers, macaroni and cheese, fries, and soda.” I hope one-day unhealthy food advertisements will no longer be targeted at young children or fast-food restaurants will revamp their menu with better choices. If fining fast food restaurants in the United States is ineffective then how will we overcome the childhood obesity crisis? I hope over time that policies will be put in place to protect young consumers from the ever-enticing Happy Meal. NP 4/30childhood_obesity__the_statistics_dont_lie_1617_x


23 Apr

Are you intimidated by cooking shows on television or inspired by them? Last week, the International Association of Culinary Professionals met for their annual conference in San Francisco. Well-known author, Michael Pollan, was unable to attend the conference but provided a video in which he talks about cooking shows on television.

Pollan argues that cooking can be competitive and as a result may turn off some viewers to cooking at home. Instead of being inspired to cook at home people would rather go out to eat or buy prepared foods.

“Once upon a time in the age of Julia Child, it was really empowering and you could learn a lot … But now that cooking on TV is treated as a competitive spectator sport, I have a feeling it’s scaring us out of the kitchen. I mean, what’s with all the flames that are six-feet high, and the giant sharp knives, and the time clock, and rush, and the general sense of panic. I think these programs are contributing to our sense that we don’t have time and we don’t have skills and it’s way too daunting, so I’m going to go out to eat.”

An episode of Hells Kitchen is one hour, the same amount of time I usually spend making myself dinner. If I were to instead watch Hells Kitchen, I would end up being discouraged and doubting my cooking skills.414fvm7-0nL._SX500_ Does anyone else agree cooking shows on television can deter you from cooking? Or are you inspired by competitive cooking shows? NP 4/23

Instagram Addict

19 Apr


I’ll admit that I am slightly addicted to social media; Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are time-suckers in my life. Besides using social media for my own entertainment, it is a great source for businesses. “Social media is a great way for businesses to market their products and services and to increase awareness of their brand. However, social media marketing is often a long-term play that does not generate an immediate increase in sales.”

The Food Network is an established brand that uses social media to their advantage. Their Facebook for example, has about 3.5 million likes and one photo is shared almost 200 times! Screen Shot 2013-04-18 at 11.07.34 AMEven though social media may not help overnight, the Food Network has established themselves on each platform. In order to have an audience to sell to, you need followers and the Food Network has tons. On Twitter, the Food Network has over 1.5 million followers. The Food Network’s social media platforms are engaging and it is clear many followers are retweeting or sharing their photos. Another way that the Food Network engages consumers is through their Pinterest. Each board invites people to celebrate, cheers, and cook along with the Food Network. By naming the boards “Let’s Celebrate” or “Let’s Rise & Shine” it is as if you are cooking along with someone else.

The Food Network may not be addicted to social media like myself but they do a great job of engaging people that results in more followers. Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter and other social networks can help companies reach a target audience, grow their fan base and build relationships with consumer who can be counted on for brand loyalty and repeat business.” WP 4/19

Caffeine Fix

16 Apr

Each morning on the thirty-minute drive to my high school I would drink a sugar free Redbull. At eight in the morning, I needed the caffeine and Redbull is delicious. However, I have had to quit my sugar free Redbull habit and live vicariously through the heavenly smell of others beverages. A recent report by Congressman Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Senator Richard J. Durbin (D-IL), and Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) explored the different practices of fourteen energy drink brands. “What’s This Buzz All About?” argues that labeling and marketing practices vary across the different brands, which results in a lack of straightforwardness. “The blurred distinction between supplements and beverages is a source of confusion for consumers.”original

Energy drinks are generally in liquid form and contain extremely high levels of caffeine, other stimulants and specialty ingredients. If you are trying to limit your intake of caffeine, it may be difficult due to the lack of information on the label. According to the report, “Manufacturers of energy drinks currently are left to their own discretion in deciding whether a product will be marketed and labeled as a conventional food (beverage) or as a dietary supplement.” Beverages do not need to list the quantities of their ingredients and are not required to report any incident of serious adverse effects whereas, dietary supplements do. For example, 5-hour energy is a dietary supplement but Rockstar, Redbull, and NOS are conventional foods. Screen Shot 2013-04-15 at 12.04.54 PM

At the end of the report there are four final recommendations for energy drink manufacturers:

1. Label products more clearly

2. Display a warning about high caffeine levels

3. Stop marketing to anyone under age 18

4. Report to the FDA any serious adverse effects.

What do you think of these recommendations? If energy drinks had clear labels would people still drink them? NP 4.16

Shiny New Things

9 Apr

Have you ever been roaming through the grocery store and find yourself buying new products based on their packaging? Personally I’m more inclined to try something new when their packaging is eye-catching. A study published in the journal of Health Communication suggested that consumers are more likely to think a food item is healthier if it has a green calorie label. Ninety-three undergraduate participants looked at two different candy bars and identified which one they thought was healthier. Even though the candy bars had the same amount of calories, the bar with a green calorie label was viewed as healthier. Lead study author, Jonathon Schuldt, PhD, said, “Green means go and has generally positive associations, so we might see that as a green light to indulge.”

Packaging items that make food appear healthy when they actually aren’t, makes healthy eating more challenging. Words like “low-fat” and “Fair Trade” trick consumers into thinking they’re choosing a healthy and responsible item. Sometimes I find myself lusting over a new food item just because of its color or shape of the bottle. “Even when we provided the participants with identical calorie information, the color was able to exert this effect,” says Schuldt. “It’s a reminder that it’s hard for us to navigate decisions about what’s healthy.” From now on I’ll be looking at labels a little more carefully. Check out the infographic below from Women’s Health Magazine . . . Have you ever fallen for any of these? NP 4/9


Sugar Rush: the game

8 Apr


The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition created a study that examined how/if advergames affect children’s eating habits. Advergames promote brands, products, or messages in a video game. This study suggested playing advergames that contain food cues increased the general intake of energy-dense foods. “Some kids can’t get enough of online games where they can pretend to run a candy factory or decorate cakes. But children who play with these games may eat more, and eat more junk food . . .”

Children who play advergames are less likely to realize that an advertisement is hidden within the game. I was curious to see what an advergame was all about, so I went to Disney’s website. On their home page, games and activities are featured second. I decided to play “Sugar Rush” which was promoting Disney’s new film Wreck-It Ralph. Sugar Rush said, “Players always come back to race through this edible world made entirely out of candies, cakes and sweets.” Sugar Rush CharactersI began racing through a fantasy candy land with my new driver, Minty. Trees were made out of peppermint sticks with cotton candy and gumdrops cheered along the side of the racetrack. Wreck-It Ralph is not a movie about candy, cakes, and sweets so I’m confused as to why their associated game is.

Advergames have the ability to influence children’s intake of energy-dense foods. Kids today can easily access iPhone’s, iPad’s, computers, etc. and therefore are exposed to food cues. I think it’s important for parents to make sure games their children play are age appropriate, since children are more likely to be persuaded by advergames than adults. WP 4/8


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