Food advertisements have bigger impact on children’s food choices than parental advice

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 10th October 2011

A new study, just published in The Journal of Pediatrics, has found that television food advertisements can have more impact on a child’s food choices than advice from their own parents.

Dr Christopher Ferguson and colleagues at Texas A&M International University, in the US, studied 75 children ranging in age from three to five years. All of the children watched two cartoons, with commercials shown between each cartoon. Half of the children watched a commercial for French fries, and the other half watched a commercial for apple slices with dipping sauce.

The children were allowed to choose a coupon for either advertised food with input from their parents. Half of the parents encouraged their child to choose the healthy option, and the other half remained neutral. Of the children who viewed the commercial for French fries, 71% chose the coupon for French fries if their parents remained neutral. However, the number only dropped to 55% when the children were encouraged by their parents to choose the healthier option. Dr.

Ferguson said, “Although advertising impact on children’s food choices is moderate in size, it appears resilient to parental efforts to intervene… Rather than focusing on banning advertisements to children, politicians, advocates, and food producers should concentrate on ways to promote the advertisement of healthy food options. Advertisement effects can work both for and against healthy eating.”