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TV Commercial Aims at Budding 'Couch Potatoes'

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Two of the three major television networks last week agreed to air a special public-service announcement encouraging children not to watch too much TV.

The cartoon advertisement, which depicts a boy and a girl turning into "couch potatoes," warns children to "be choosy in what you watch'' and to "watch out for overeating."

Both abc and cbs have agreed to air the announcement, which was produced by the American Academy of Pediatrics. As of late last week, nbc officials had not yet seen the ad.

In the 30-second spot, the two cartoon characters turn into "couch potatoes" while watching television and gobbling snacks. The ad tells children to "avoid this dreaded disease. ... Don't just plop in front of the TV 'cause you've got nothing else to do. ... Watch out for overeating."

Officials of the pediatrics group said they produced the ad as a health promotion and to encourage children to develop better television-viewing habits. They said they hoped the ad's tongue-in-cheek message would both appeal to children and draw attention to8the issue.

American children spend more time watching television than any other activity besides sleeping, according to the academy. And today's child or teenager, by the time he or she reaches age 70, will have spent an estimated seven years watching TV.

Next to the family, television may be the most important source of information for children and a major influence on their development, the pediatrics group said.

In the cartoon, the boy "couch potato," his eyes large and red, holds on to the television set, pleading, "Leave me alone, just let me groove with my tube."

The girl in the cartoon becomes mesmerized by commercials and demands, while noisily munching a bowl of greasy-looking snacks: "Gotta have that. ... Mama, can I buy that?"

The ad, produced for the fall television season, is designed to air during times when children are watching television. It has yet to be scheduled on the two networks that have agreed to air it.--k.g.

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