Influence of Television Advertising on Children’s Eating Behavior

Much research has been conducted in the relation to the children’s eating behavior and the influence of the television advertising. The core problem which is discussed within the research is the children’s obesity and the influence of the programs children watch on its spread and increase. Harris, Bargh, & Brownell (2009) conducted a research on the influence of food advertising during watching TV on the increase of obesity in children.

The amount of snacks children consumed during and after watching food advertising on TV increased dramatically. In general, children ate on 45% more from what they got used to eat when they do not watch TV.

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Students of the elementary school consume much more snacks, both healthy and unhealthy, during and after watching a cartoon with food advertising in the comparison with those who watch cartoons with other types of advertising. Snack is a portion of food which differs greatly in size from the ordinary portion of meal. Snack is usually eaten irregularly as additional meal, between the regular main meals.

118 children participated in the research conducted by Harris, Bargh, & Brownell (2009), but only 108 subjects provided full data which makes it possible to analyze it and draw conclusions. The age of the participants of the experiment ranged from 7 to 11. Children were randomly divided into two groups. The first group was shown the cartoon “Disney’s Recess” which lasts for 14 minutes with four 30 seconds food advertising. Another group watched the same cartoon, but with four 30 seconds nonfood commercials.

The results of the research have shown that children who watch food advertising as a part of a cartoon ate much more snacks (28.5 gr.) while the research than those who watched nonfood commercial (19.7 gr.). The experiment was conducted without gender differentiation among children aged between 7 and 11 years old.

As the children were not informed about the main idea of the experiment, most of them stated that they noticed ads, but they did not pay much attention to those as they believed that the main idea of the experiment is cartoon and mood. The participants of the experiment were offered different kinds of snacks, vegetables, cookies, trail mix, snack mix, and multigrain chips.

The research has proven the direct connection between food commercials and the amount of food children eat while watching. It should be noticed that the influence of brand of the food does not influence the results of the research.

According to our observations and the further research results, it can be stated that advertising may change children’s nutrition habits (Nota, Caceres, & Cousin, 2010) as living in the modern world the half of food advertising (50%) is devoted to fast food and chocolate (Zuppa, Morton, & Mehta, 2003) which is different from what we got used to consume.

The research in different countries show that children in Australia, different countries of Asia, Western Europe, North and South America are influenced by unhealthy advertising which influenced children’s eating behavior (Kelly, et al, 2010).

Watching food ads children eat different snacks and get used to them. So, when they see the familiar snack for the next time, a child is sure to eat it as it may recollect some memories in their minds. Thus, the tastes change and children’s eating behavior changes as well.

The food commercials of unhealthy food, like fast food and other unhealthy products, negatively influence children’s eating behavior when they watch cartoons even with 30 seconds’ food commercials which repeats a couple of time during 10 minute film. Unhealthy products are the products which contain too many fats and calories without vitamins, proteins and other specific elements which help successful functioning of the kids’ organism.

544 food advertisements were watched among which 21% were devoted to core food, 79 to non-core foods. 50% of commercials were devoted to fast food and chocolate. In the relation to the international research, food commercial comprises from 11 up to 29 per cent of all ads. The rate of non-core commercials is predicted to higher during kids’ time.

The research conducted by Zuppa, Morton, & Mehta (2003) collected the information of 63 hours of television programs aimed at children and the ads which have been broadcasted during that time. The international research duration was 2 weekdays and 2 weekends. The research was conducted between 6 am and 10 pm at the 3 channels popular among children under 13. Overall, groups watched TV for 192 hours.

The results of the research by Zuppa, Morton, & Mehta (2003) about the number of food commercials by food category during 63 hours of broadcasting during kind’s hours

Food groupsFood ads, numberFood ads, %
Core foods11221
Non-core foods:
fast food restaurants
Non-core foods total43279


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