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Saturday 17 November 2018

Junk food ads have big impact on kids

Ads make kids more likely to spend money on junk food. Photo: Dominic Lipinski
Ads make kids more likely to spend money on junk food. Photo: Dominic Lipinski

Children exposed to junk food adverts are more likely to pester their parents for unhealthy products, research suggests.

Youngsters who watch high levels of commercial advertising for products high in fat, salt and/or sugar, both on TV and online, are also far more likely to spend their pocket money on junk food.

In a new paper published by Cancer Research UK, experts describe how the amount of time spent online or watching television, while being exposed to adverts for unhealthy foods, can increase a child's likelihood of consuming unhealthy foods.

Pester

Researchers from the University of Liverpool and Cancer Research UK's Cancer Policy Research Centre found that children who used the internet for three hours or more a day were three times more likely to pester their parents for junk food - and four times more likely to use pocket money to buy junk food.

Even those who were online for just half an hour were more likely to persistently request junk food.

Children who watched commercial TV for more than three hours a day were twice as likely to pester their parents for unhealthy food and were more than twice as likely to consume crisps and sugary drinks.

The researchers surveyed 2,500 seven to 11-year-olds and their parents about their eating habits and screen time.

On average, children were online for 16 hours a week - not including time spent for homework - and watched 22 hours of television.

The report calls existing regulations to be updated so junk food advertising on TV cannot be shown until after 9pm and introduce similar protection for children exposed to advertising on-demand and online.

Ministers in the UK are set to consult on policies to reduce childhood obesity, including a watershed for unhealthy food adverts on TV, and how to regulate on- demand and online adverts.

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