Study reveals Kids Meals, Toys, and TV Advertising impact on children’s eating habits

A new study published in The Journal of Pediatrics suggests that TV advertisements of fast foods affect children’s eating habits, and compels them to consume more food.

The study reveals that the more children watch fast food ads on children channel networks showing these ads, the more they pester their parents for food and the need to visit the fast foods.

Fast food restaurants have the practice of advertising appetizing children meals on children TV channels, whetting the appetites of the children and causing them to pester their parents for the advertised meals. Again, the advertisers also include offers of premium toys in the ads, and this compels children to force their parents into visiting the restaurants to be able to buy food and then claim the toy gifts.

An earlier study had previously established that TV ads of fast food and soft drinks sensitize children to go hungry and to ask for food. The study was carried out among Grade 5 elementary children pupils and carried out by Inas Rashad Kelly, Jennifer L. Harris, and Tatiana Andreyeva.

In this current study, Jennifer A. Edmund and her colleagues from the Geisel School of Medicine in Dartmouth analyzed a database of all TV ads running nationally from 2009 by fast food restaurants. The researchers found that only two fast foods restaurants ran child-directed adverts on national TV at this time, and that about 79% of the children-directed ads from the two restaurants ran on four children TV networks.

The researchers recruited 100 children aged 3 to 7 years, and one of their two parents in the study. The parents were asked to fill a survey form which addressed questions such as the frequency at which their children watched kids’ TV networks, and if their children asked to visit the two restaurants offering the ads. They were also asked to record if they children were given toy gifts at the restaurants, and the number of times the family went to the restaurants.

About 37% of parents reported that their families went very often to the two restaurants and 54% of children demanded to visit at least one of the fast food joints. Out of the 29% of kids who got toys from the restaurants, 83% of them had asked to visit either one of the restaurants.

The researchers said the only way to deal with the issue is to switch TV channels to those that don’t run ads, while the number of TVs in the children room, visitor’s room, kitchen and other places be reduced to only the one in the sitting room; while children should generally spend lesser time watching TVs or children channels.