Recent findings indicate that food marketing to ethnic minority groups has increased in the past decade.26 There are racial disparities in media use and the greatest differences are for TV time.1 However, research on TV viewing and food advertising practices targeting ethnic minority populations is still scarce. The few available studies show that a higher proportion of food advertisements seen by black children are for fast food restaurants or they are higher in sugar than advertisements seen by white children.14,27-29 Hispanic preschool children see almost 300 advertisements for fast foods each year on Spanish-language channels alone.30 Given the high rates of overweight and obesity among minority children and the higher consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages by African American and Hispanic 31 than white children, these findings are especially concerning.
As one-third of U.S. children and adolescents are overweight or obese, it is critical to examine the extent to which TV viewing and TV food advertising negatively influence current and future eating behaviours among children and adolescents. It is also important to discuss potential regulations that can protect children from TV ads and deceptive marketing. Finally, given the ubiquitous nature of TV advertising, implications for policy, parents and service providers will be discussed.
Children and adolescents spend a considerable amount of time watching television. As a result, youth are exposed to a large number of food and beverage advertisements each day. Among ethnic minority groups, this exposure is even higher. Television viewing is associated with unhealthy food consumption among children. There is sufficient evidence that TV advertising influences the food preferences, purchase requests and diets of children under the age of 12 years. Experimental studies supported the causal relationship of food advertising on children’s eating behaviours, demonstrating that immediately following the food commercials young children were more likely to increase their caloric intake and snack foods. Although research is limited in the area of parental communication about food advertising, it has been shown that parental communication about food advertising and setting restrictions on advertising exposure protects against energy-dense food consumption among young children. From findings to date, causal relationship cannot be drawn between TV advertising exposure and obesity, however significant associations have been found between fast food advertising and child body mass index. Limited regulations on marketing to children exist in the U.S. and various European countries have a range of statutory and self-regulatory rules in place.37 While Canada has a well-established system of self regulation, Quebec is the only province prohibiting commercial advertising directed at children under the age of 13.42
How can Kristal make a case?Can we begin to categorize the ill effects of advertising upon children:a) damage to the body (what do we have in readings to support the claim that suguary sweets contribute to obesity).b) psychological: what evidence do we have to suggest advertising effects the self-esteem of young people, causing them to become self critical at an early age.c) moral or ethical: can we make the claim that consumer society teaches young people to equate happiness with money and the acquisition of material goods.I think if one were to to find quotations and elaborate upon them and these points in general that one could make the case that advertising to children is a very, very bad thing.
According to American Academy of Pediatrics, children below the age of 2 should not watch TV and anyone older than 2 years should only watch 1 to 2 hours of quality programming per day.42 Health care providers should be abreast of the latest research and policies regarding TV viewing and children’s dietary behaviours and obesity. At well-child visits, health care practitioner should discuss with families their TV habits and inform them about the negative impact of food advertising on children’s dietary behaviours.
The diets of American children are inadequate in nutrient-dense foods (i.e., fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy, and whole grains), and are high in energy-dense foods and beverages (i.e., chips, fast food, soda). More than any other foods/beverages, children are exposed to marketing messages for unhealthy foods, such as sugary breakfast cereals, fast food restaurants and snack foods such as chips, desserts, candy, sugar-sweetened beverages, and yogurt.3,14 Exposure to unhealthy foods through TV marketing has been linked to increased preferences for marketed foods.7,10,15 Since most of children’s food preferences are formed during early childhood16 children are at risk for forming life-long preferences for foods laden in calories, fat, and added sugars and, thus, are also at increased risk for obesity due to TV food marketing practices.6,15,17
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Food and beverage marketing is a major factor that influences children’s food preferences and purchasing requests.6-8 Marketers use many avenues to reach children with their messages such as using popular cartoon characters and toy giveaways to increase the pester-power of youth.9-11 Billboards, in-school advertisements, TV commercials, product placement in television shows/movies/video games and in grocery stores, Internet websites and games, and smart phone applications are often used to deliver messages and engage youth.6,9 While technology and advertising techniques are changing, television remains the most prominent method of marketing food and beverages to youth, especially for those in early childhood.3,12 Annually, the food and beverage industry spends $1.23 billion on marketing food and beverages to children under the age of 12 years.13
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Although there is a substantial scientific evidence demonstrating the link between duration of TV viewing and children as well as TV viewing behaviour and future adiposity,18,32 fewer studies have shown a direct association between exposure to TV advertisement and obesity. Studies have also found a link between fast food restaurant advertising and body mass index,33 indicating that if fast food advertising was banned, it would reduce the number of overweight 3 to 11 year old children by 18%.33 Given the challenges involved in directly assessing the effect of advertising on obesity, simulation studies have been conducted. According to these studies, in the absence of TV advertising for food, the rate of overweight and obesity for 6 to 12 year old children would have been reduced by about 25% and 40%, respectively.34,35