Influence of TV Ads on Children’s Eating Behavior

Did you know the time spent on TV can be risky for your kid’s nutrition?  Many children spend a lot of time watching TV and research shows they are easily persuaded to choose the food being advertised. On average, each child usually sees between 10-13 TV commercials that promote food and beverages. 

Most of the foods presented in TV ads do not provide any nutrients when it comes to nourishment, rather, they have lots of solid fats, sodium, added sugar, and extra calories. They definitely lack in essential minerals, vitamins, and dietary fiber.

 

Introduction

Childhood obesity is a serious public issue that escalates morbidity, mortality, and has considerable long-term social and economic costs.  Various research has shown that the rates of obesity, of children and adolescents in America, have tripled in only the last quarter of the century.  About 20% of American youth are now overweight and obesity rates in school-going children are increasing at an alarming speed. 

Risk factors related to obesity in children and adolescents are associated with poor health conditions including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, asthma, and sleep apnea. 

Kids under age 6 are unable to differentiate between advertising and programming and children under age 8 cannot identify influential intent of TV advertisements. These kinds of food advertisements are exploitative for children of all ages. Studies proved a direct link between TV ads for unhealthy food and increased rates of obesity in children.

Children have an extraordinary capability to recall content they have seen on TV. They easily form preferences for certain products after repeated exposure to a specific ad, which affects their product purchase demands and these demands influence parents’ decision about purchasing.   

Effect of TV Ads on Behavioral & Mental Health of Children

  • Food industry targets children and youth as their primary audience which results in increased rates of childhood obesity.
  • Many TV advertisements objectify women, especially girls, contributing to eating disorders, body dissatisfaction, depression, and low self-esteem.
  • Teenage girls develop concerns regarding the body and engage in dietary behavior or unhealthy ways to control weight. These unhealthy behaviors include fasting, eating fewer calories, skipping meals, using diet pills, purging, diuretics, or laxatives.
  • Weight prejudice may sideline children & youth by teachers and peers and make them vulnerable to bullying and teasing.

Association of TV ads and Childhood Obesity

  • There is a detrimental effect of TV ads on the eating behavior of children. The rate of obesity increases with increasing TV hours in children.
  • Children’s exposure to TV commercials for food products (i.e., fast food, energy drinks, low-nutrient snacks, high-calorie, deep-fried products, bakery products, products with cheese, and artificial sweets) is a considerable risk factor for obesity.
  • The food industry has centered its marketing campaigns on children, but it didn’t show any improvement in healthy food marketing such as fruits, vegetables, fish, poultry, whole grain, low-fat dairy, beans, or lean meats. On average, three out of four food commercials fall into the category of unhealthy food for children that cause obesity.

How To Tame Television Temptations & Promote Healthier Eating?  

  • No TV while Eating: As parents, you can limit watching TV especially while eating meals or snacking. You should consider applying this rule to not only TV but also to other electronic devices as well. Eating together without distractions will support healthy eating and family bonding too.
  • Choose Kid’s TV Programs without Ads: Try to DVR your kid’s favorite shows so you have the ability to skip the commercials. Or pop in a DVD if you still have them lying around. 
  • Decide to Limit Screen Time: As most of the children spend more time in front of screens, you can limit the time. The recommended time for TV is no more than one hour per day by the American Academy of Pediatrics.  You can clearly explain this to your children and indulge them in other healthy play activities. 
  • Promote Healthy Foods: You can try growing a garden and ask your children to help you with learning about different foods.  You can take them to a farmer’s market or a grocery store to give them an insight into how many healthy food options are there.  Young children can be taught how to check the Nutritional Facts labels while purchasing anything from grocery stores.
  • Engage Children in Kitchen:  Children and Youth have a willingness to learn new things.  This is a great time to engage them in learning about healthy food options.  You can tell them about food safety such as hand washing, washing fruits and vegetables before eating, kitchen tasks, setting the table, and how to cut salads.  They might start liking healthy fruits such as fruits and vegetables.
  • Exercise Hour: Set one hour for physical activities.  Involve your children in a slight walk, jog, or run.  You can also join in for an exercise session such as dancing, yoga, or Zumba.  Children usually enjoy such activities.  For pre-school children, you can purchase a cycle and let the kid drive it as much as he can.  It will help in burning extra calories in kids.
  • Fresh Smoothies: Instead of giving your children artificial juices, give them natural fresh drinks.  Young children get attracted to colorful beverages.  You can add different fruits and vegetables to make fresh smoothies.  Beetroot can be used in drinks for a bright color.  You can find a variety of fresh juice recipes online.
  • Be a Role Model: Kids learn most of the information by simply observing others.  As a parent, your healthy food choices will help your children to eat healthy as well.  You can limit your TV time or spending time on electronic devices.  Performing regular exercise, eating healthy food, and opting for a healthy lifestyle for yourself can be very helpful for your kids as well.  They will observe and behave like that.