Today’s generation of children, on average, spend more than 44.5 hours per week in front of a computer, television and/or game screen, often simultaneously. Not only is that time no longer used playing outside and being active (as per past generations) but research has also found a strong association with “junk food” ads and the growing rate of childhood obesity.
A staggering 50% of all ads found on TV are made up by Food Ads, almost completely dominated by unhealthy food products (34% for candy and snacks, 28% for cereal, 10% for fast food, 4% for dairy products 1% for fruit juice and 0% for fruits and vegetables).
Children under the age of 6 don’t have the mental development to recognize the difference between programming and advertising and any child under the age of 8 doesn’t understand the intent of persuasive advertising. Both these reasonings make the very nature of advertising to children manipulative. With as little as one exposure to a commercial, children have shown to have product preference which only strengthens with repeated exposure.
According to the 2009 experiment “Priming effects of television food advertising on eating behavior”, while watching the same cartoon two groups of kids were exposed to either food advertising or advertising other products. The children who were exposed to food advertising consumed 45% more snacks and foods than the other group.
In the UK, 3,348 teens between 11 and 19 were surveyed on their tv and diet habits. The results showed that those that watched three or more hours of commercial TV or streamed content with ads were more than twice (139%) as likely to drink carbonated drinks as those who watched the same amount but without ads or less tv all together. The same teens who watched more commercial TV were also 65% more likely to eat fast food or quick meals.
Children between the ages of 8-12 are entering the critical stage of development where they are establishing their own food habits and making more food choices for themselves, while teens are entering the stage of freedom and the ability to purchase their own food. As parents there are few things we can do to help!
- Have Regular family mealtimes (without the tv on)!
- Regular exercise with their friends and as a family
- Limited time spent watching TV, surfing the web or gaming
- Monitor the media that your children consume and on which platform (especially under the age of 8)
- Children aren’t the only ones bombarded with unhealthy advertisements, note what commercials you see while watching TV and how it affects your own habits.
- Lead by example and encourage health eating habits and physical activity yourself.
Remember, YOU have the greatest influence on your children’s health!