Advertising has long been blamed for bringing out the worst in us; from causing us to think we need things we don’t, to feeling we need to look a certain way. New research uncovers yet another potential evil of advertising: its effect on children’s eating habits. Since childhood obesity and related health issues are on the rise, it’s crucial we uncover the many factors contributing to children’s unhealthy eating habits. A new study examines the relationship between children’s television food commercial viewing and their eating habits and food choices.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than two hours a day of television viewing for children. Studies have shown that long hours of television viewing may have a detrimental effect on children’s health. Children who consistently spend more than four hours per day watching TV are more likely to be overweight. And kids who view violence on television are more likely to show aggressive behavior yet are also more likely to feel that the world is unsafe.
In the first-of-its-kind study, roughly 280 participants between the ages of 6 and 13 viewed various forms of television programming and commercials for food products. After viewing food commercials, all children selected more branded and non-branded fatty and carbohydrate-laden items compared with viewing non-food commercials. And the longer the children viewed television, the greater their preference was for unhealthy food items.
While junk food and fast food ads may not be completely to blame for childhood obesity, this study finds they do contribute to the overall problem. What can you do to keep your kids healthy? Limiting your child’s television viewing will help encourage them to choose a healthy diet and reduce their risk of childhood obesity. It’s up to parents and educators to help children recognize seductive marketing ads and tactics. And while children may be bombarded with ads for junk food daily, they can learn that they don’t need to buy into it or choose unhealthy options.