The most demonstrative example of this is in advertising towards children. What are the primary products advertised to children? Toys. Media. Food. Lots of food. Lots of unhealthy food: breakfast cereals, snack foods, candy, dairy products, baked goods, sweetened beverages, cold desserts, restaurant foods.
Studies have been conducted evaluating multiple aspects of food marketing as it relates to children:
- the association between advertisements of unhealthy foods and childhood obesity rates
- the amount of screen time (tv, computer, mobile) of children in different age groups related to placement, type, and frequency of advertisements
- the media literacy rates of children in different age groups, including distinguishing programming from advertising, advertising intent, and impulse control as they relate to food purchasing and consumption.
- the development of intergenerational brand loyalty
- children’s repeated purchase requests after repeated advertisement exposure, which may influence parents’ purchasing habits
- snacking behavior and its biological ramifications in relation to food advertisements
- children’s behavior in establishing food habits (making their own food choices and purchasing power) during the critical stage of development: between ages 8-12
- the use of technology to actively engage children in brand-related activities (online games, etc.)
- federal, state, and local attempts to enact laws and regulations on the food industry
- effectiveness of self-regulation within the food industry
So what can we do? As parents, we have several options from promoting healthy snacks and an active lifestyle to restricting screen time, being stalwart against repeated requests for junk food. Stepping outside of our families, we can advocate for change in our children’s schools or on a legislative level, create advertising promoting healthy food choices, push the food industry to increase their commitment and standards of self-regulation.
We all have to work together to combat childhood obesity. Contact the experts at the Metabolic Medical Centers for programs specifically designed for child and adolescent weight loss.