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Children are exposed to junk food advertisements the most

Posted April 19, 2018

Believe it or not, but children still watch TV. Maybe not as much as they used to, because now they spend more time in front of computer or playing video games, but they still watch some TV and advertisers know that. Scientists from University of Adelaide found that unhealthy food ads are usually played on times when children watch TV the most.

Junk food is often advertised on the time, when children watch TV. Image credit: Evan-Amos via Wikimedia

If a child watches 80 minutes of TV every day, he is exposed to 800 junk food ads each year – twice as much as advertisements of healthy food. Scientists determined that after building a bespoke TV monitoring system, which captured an entire year’s worth of television and ads from one free-to-air commercial TV network. Scientists managed to log 30 thousand hours of television containing more than 500 hours of food advertisements in 2016. Of course, some of these ads displayed healthy food, but there was a lot of snacks, crumbed/battered meats, takeaway/fast food and sugary drinks.

There is a particular time of day when children are especially keen on television – when cartoons are on. And in that time junk food advertisement is 2.3 times higher each hour than for healthy foods. If you remember that children are probably the most affected by advertisement and that they really do like unhealthy food, it is not surprising that problems related to diet are the leading cause of disease in Australia and in many other countries across the globe. In fact, the problem is so serious that many countries have implemented regulations on junk food advertisement or ads directly targeted towards kids. Meanwhile Australian institutions agree that children’s exposure to junk food ads should be limited, but so far even monitoring systems are not in place.

Scientists hope that this research will be the beginning of the solution to this problem. Associate Professor Lisa Smithers, lead author of this study said: “Diet-related problems are the leading cause of disease in Australia, and the World Health Organization has concluded that food marketing influences the types of foods that children prefer to eat, ask their parents for, and ultimately consume”. And so, scientists are thinking about pushing for tighter legislation to regulate junk food advertising on TV at times when many children are watching.

If you, as an adult, see a junk food commercial, you take it for what it is – just an advertisement. However, for children it is just that little bit more real and they want what they see. In this way these junk food ads contribute to humanity getting fatter.


Source: University of Adelaide

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