The television channels your child watches may be bombarding him with hundreds of commercials for unhealthy food, a new study suggests.
Researchers studied a single TV network in Australia frequently watched by children. They calculated the number of food commercials that appeared over a one-year period, focusing on the hours before school (7 a.m. to 9 a.m.) and after school (4 p.m. to 10 p.m.) when children tend to watch television.
Ads for unhealthy food such as chips, fast food and fried food appeared almost twice as often as commercials for healthy food, the study found. Junk-food advertising actually increased during the hours when children were likely to be home, the authors said.
Altogether, assuming children watched about 80 minutes of the TV network a day, they’d be exposed to more than 800 junk food commercials over the course of a year, the researchers calculated. That’s the equivalent of about 4 hours of back-to-back junk food advertising, according to the study published in the Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health.
The researchers didn’t explore what impact the junk food advertising might be having on children. But other research, and the World Health Organization, have tied advertising of unhealthy food and drink to obesity in children.
Of course, this study wasn’t looking at a U.S. television channel, so the amount of junk food advertising on networks here may be different. Unfortunately, if the amount is similar, American kids could potentially be exposed to even more ads for unhealthy food than this study suggests. A report last year by Common Sense Media found that children in the U.S. spend on average more than 2 hours a day looking at screens, mostly TV and video.
Another recent study found that sporting events watched frequently by children on TV and online overwhelmingly featured advertising for junk food.
Concerned about the effects of junk food advertising on your child? Learn some tips on how to counter junk food marketing, and what to do if your toddler only wants to eat junk food.