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Don’t fall for the obesity trap: Fast food companies enticing kids with premium toys

Posted:  Thursday, November 05, 2015

Children love to watch their favourite cartoon show on a dedicated channel. As parents, watch out for fast food company ads which entice children with complimentary free toys warn researchers of a new study. Results of the study revealed that increased viewing of fast food ads featuring premium toys by children resulted in families dining out at the fast food restaurants very often.

The results of this study were published in The Journal of Pediatrics. The researchers compiled a database of all fast food TV ads that aired nationally in 2009. Of them, 2 nationally known fast food chains rolled out child directed TV advertising on 4 children’s TV networks.

Armed with this knowledge, the researchers enrolled 100 children aged between 3 to 7 years and one of their parents in the study. The parents had to answer a survey which quizzed about how often their children watched each of the 4 TV channels; if they requested visits to the 2 featured restaurants; if they collected toys from those restaurants; and the frequency of the family visiting those restaurants.

The results were as follows:

37% of the parents reported frequent visits to the 2 fast food restaurants.

54% of children requested a visit to at least one of the featured restaurants.

29% of the children collected the complimentary toys and among them, 83% requested a visit to at least one or both of the restaurants.

High number of TV sets at home; TV in the child’s bedroom; increased TV viewing during the day; and more time spent in watching children’s channels were some of the factors leading to increased TV viewing time.

Although the study enrolled a small number of participants, it showed how child directed advertising could shape their food preferences. In addition, increased TV viewing could expose the children to such advertisements thus playing a role in their health. In a parting statement, the researchers said, “Our best advice to parents is to switch their child to commercial-free TV programming to help avoid pestering for foods seen in commercials."

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