Thursday, February 26, 2009

Food Advertising Directed at Children: Obesity Link

In a study in 2007, researchers found that food is the number one product seen by children through advertising. Tweens who watch television more, see as much or more as 20 ads for food per day. 34% of all food ads targeting children or teens are for candy and snack food. Half of all ads shown during children’s shows are for food. The Kaiser Family Foundation is a non profit group devoted to research and policy concerned with the health and well being of America. They see a direct correlation between child directed marketing and the rise of obesity in children. To help inform the political debate, the Kaiser Family Foundation released the largest study ever conducted of television food advertising to children.

“Television advertising influences the food preferences, purchase requests, and diets, at least of children under age 12 years, and is associated with the increased rates of obesity among children and youth” (IOM, 2006).

Of all the ads in the study that target children or teenagers,"34% are for candy and snacks, 28% are for cereal, and 10% are for fast foods. 4% are for dairy products and 1% for fruit juices." The KFF watched and reviewed over 8,000 different food advertisements throughout the study and there were zero for fruits or vegetables. 1/5 of all ads attempt to push the child viewer to a website, with the promise of premiums (toys, music, prizes). 10% of the ads are interrelated to a movie, TV show, or ro music.

"From an annual perspective, children ages 2–7 are exposed to an average of 13,904 TV ads a year for all products, while the comparable figures are 30,155 ads for 8–12 year olds, and 28,655 ads for teens ages 13–17. This represents more than 106 hours (106:39 hr) a year of advertising for the 2–7 year olds, nearly 230 hours (229:31 hr) a year for the 8–12 year olds, and 217 hours (217:37 hr) a year for the teenagers."

All children are exposed to a solid amount of food advertising. However, their exposure depends significantly on age. The most affected are children ages 8–12 because of that age demographics' television addiction. Coincidentally this happens to be a vital stage in food habit development, and have more opportunities to make their own food choices. Therefore, policymakers and industry leaders are going to pay close attention to the marketing of food to tweens. It is cobvious that food and beverages dominate the television advertising universe, particularly for children. Therefore, policies that impact food advertising are likely to impact the children’s television also.

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