Impact of Unhealthy Food Advertisements on Children

1 January 2017

Studies have shown that a trend toward junk food consumption has been increased among children in Pakistan, which is ultimately leading to childhood obesity. Our purpose of study is analyzing the impact of food advertisements on the children aged 8-13 years in terms of the food ads influence on their unhealthy food consumption and purchasing preference. The methodology we used was that firstly we had surveyed 10 well known primary schools of Multan, ten students were taken from each school thus our sample size(n=100)and they were asked to fill the questionnaires.

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Secondly we had also observed the buying behavior of the children at canteens. Thirdly, Parents and teachers were also interviewed they had the opinion that there is an impact of junk food ads on children eating preferences. Our results included that mostly children have no concept of fats which can be the reason for greater unhealthy food consumption in response to food ads among them. The weak relationship exists between the number of hours the TV watched by the children and junk food consumption frequency.

Moreover, mostly ads remembered by the children were of confectionaries and fast food outlets; suggesting that children are more attracted towards the junk food items because of the Junk food ads. Results also show parents have strong influence in stopping their children from consuming the junk foods but the relationship between the parental influence and the junk food consumption frequency found to be weak as children consume more food outside the home. The study was carried out with 8-13 years aged pupils (n =100) in ten primary schools in main areas of Multan.

Thus, the generality of these findings to children from other demographics and cities is unclear. Moreover, only ten schools of the Multan were visited. Keywords: Children; Food advertisement; Junk food; Child obesity; Purchasing preferences Introduction The main course of our research relies on scratching out all the possible factors and variables that are used in food advertisements. Television is one of the strongest medium of advertisement due to its mass reach; it can influence not only the individual’s attitude, behavior, life style, exposure, eating pattern and other aspects of one’s life.

Besides TV there are other medium including magazines, newspapers, radio, billboards etc to advertise the food products. Children of course are the most awful victims of advertisements. Its effects on the children are universal in nature. Food marketers are interested in children because of their spending power. They are more influenced by the advertisement and purchase the product. More hours they spend on watching TV, the more impact on their purchase. The companies that make junk food aggressively advertise their products. The junk food ads are mostly shown on the children TV programming as it promotes consumption.

They specially use cartoon characters that are mostly admired by children. They also use musical backgrounds and color schemes that attract the children. Children diets are strongly influenced by the environment. They eat more food away from home, drinking soft drinks and snacking more frequently. The intake of fats, sugar and artificial flavors has increased. That is the major reason of increasing obesity among children and indicates an alarming situation. Children who watch excessive television may be the ones who do not participate in games and are consumers of fat and high energy snack foods.

Commercials could be attributed as misleading. Excessive TV viewing brings laziness and idleness and thus creates childhood obesity. The findings come from research at Liverpool University which draws a clear link between the TV advertising of foods high in fat, sugar, salt and rising obesity. The findings put pressure to the parents to control their children diet as well as their TV viewing. The purpose of our study is (1) to identify the critical impact of food ads on children (2) to know the factors causing obesity (3) to statistically test the impact of factors on children. Literature review

There are some studies showing children and adolescents are targeted by the food marketers as Story and Simon (2004) have studied that the food and beverages industries are aggressively targeting the adolescents and children. Children are focused more in food advertisements on media, even in school advertisements. Youth targeted marketing is also heavily influencing the children and adolescent, they emphasized that the food being advertised are fatty and sugary in nature (snack, Soft Drink). The reason behind targeting the youth is that they are seen as potential customers in future.

So, the purpose of such food advertisements aimed at children is to influence brand awareness, brand preference, brand loyalty and food purchase among youth. There’s no doubt fun is mainly focused in the food advertisements targeted towards children to gain their attention as De Iulio (2010) has emphasized that in advertisements targeting the children, food products are thus linked to a fantasy world of entertainment specific to the child culture and, as has been more and more frequently the case, to the mass media child culture in order to attract the children to the foods advertised.

This fun dimension for children based food advertisements is also being supported by Mathiot (2010) who has suggested that the child is perceived as being purely and simply attracted by the fun dimension of a product. The interviews with the parents on the subject of their children frequently hint at such representations, with remarks such as it’s fun, so they’re bound to like it when considering children’s eating habits there is a need to examine how designers construct the children’s world. Children have a reflexive attitude towards their eating practice.

There is no doubt that more exposure to unhealthy food advertisements leads to increased junk food consumption especially among obese children as Halfords (2004) research indicates that the prevalence of obesity in childhood is increasing. Obese children did recognize a greater number of foods than non-food advertisements. The obese children also ate the least amount of the savoury low-fat packet food tested. The normal weight children still consumed the savory low-fat snack after viewing the non-food ads.

Their data is consistent with the small number of studies specifically examining the relationship between viewing food advertisements and food choices and eating behavior in children. Exposure to advertisement for foods on TV can have an effect also on eating behavior, stimulating energy intake from a range of foods and exaggerating unhealthy choices among foods. Many studies have been conducted to find the connection between food advertisements and food choices of children as Haris, Bargh and Brown (2009) came up with the ypothesis that exposure to food advertising on T. V also contribute to obesity by triggering automatic snacking of available food.

As the children, who saw food advertising ate 8. 8 gram more during the 14 minutes they watch TV in the experiment. It also caused in weight gain of almost 10 pounds per year. So the lack of significant moderating effect for any of the child characteristic measured suggests the considerable power of food advertising to consistently influence consumption across a highly diverse sample of children.

TV viewing habits and food consumption are interlinked as Fiates (2008) has suggested a qualitative methodology to investigate TV viewing habits and food choices in a group of students. Results showed that TV viewing was indeed an important part of the children’s leisure hours, and that eating was a habit strongly associated with it. Aside from the media, schools are influential environments in children’s lives, and could serve as effective mediums in relaying information to promote modification of ‘‘bad’’ behaviors and adoption of new,’ healthier’’ ones.

This study was of exploratory nature; results suggested that the qualitative approach generated valuable and interesting data that can be tested later on by other methods, such as a quantitative survey. Thus, increasing preferences of food brands being advertised along with consumption related family communication strongly influence the children’s food consumption as Buijzen, Schuuman ,Bomhof (2007) has suggested that children’s exposure to food advertising was significantly related to their consumption of advertised brands and energy product categories.

Further, they found the relation between advertising exposure and overall food consumption only held in lower income. In addition, consumption-related family communication was an important moderator of the relation between advertising and the food consumption variable. Besides TV outdoor food advertisements and food outlets also play important role in triggering unhealthy food advertisements among children, as Walton, Pearce and Day (2009) have shown that impact of outdoor food advertisements and outdoor food outlets around schools have impact on promoting nutrition in schools.

The outdoor food advertisements mostly promote the junk foods (snacks, fast foods). More exposure to outdoor food advertisements by school children on their routes more would be the strong influence on their buying behavior. Thus less outdoor food advertisements around school could be suggested for helping schools in promoting nutrition. Moreover, Stevenson (2007) indicated that there are many other interwoven factors influencing adolescents’ eating behavior, from personal and cognitive factors to peer, parental and media influences and furthermore, that these converge to constitute barriers to healthy eating.

Thematic analysis identified four key factors as barriers to healthy eating. These factors were: physical and psychological reinforcement of eating behavior; perceptions of food and eating behavior; perceptions of contradictory food-related social pressures; and perceptions of the concept of healthy eating itself. Ways in which to address these societal level issues can be derived from an understanding of the dynamics of the problem itself.

But parents do have strong influence on children’s eating habits as Guidetti, Cavazza (2008) have suggested that Parents’ repertory have an anchoring function in the formation of that of their children, not only in terms of imitation, but also in terms of influencing the direction of differentiation and innovation. Similarities and differences linking parents’ and children’s food repertories are not simply due to a shared culture, but are, at least in part, specifically attributable to the shared family environment.

In this study they found that as children’s age increased, the negative overlap between their avoidances and parents’ preferences (limitation area) decreased, suggesting that children tended to accept a larger number of food items among those particularly loved by their parents, probably because they were acquiring ‘‘more adult-like’’ tastes. Along with that Dens, Pelsmacker and Eagle (2007) have suggested that parents express concern with their children’s eating habits and parental attitudes towards food advertising were negative.

Attitude towards food advertising, the perception of the influence of advertising on children and the extent to which they understand its commercial intent are insignificant in determining parental restrictive mediation. For the promotion of healthy food practices among children Dixona, Scullya, Wakefield (2007) has suggested that advertisements for healthy foods on children’s TV may help to promote healthy eating among children. Children already knew healthy foods were better for them than junk foods, but they showed less favorable attitudes to healthy foods than junk foods.

Changing the food advertising environment on children’s TV to one where nutritious foods are effectively promoted and junk foods are relatively unrepresented would help to normalize and reinforce healthy eating and could empower those with poor diets to recognize their eating behavior as unhealthy and seek to change it. In order to discourage unhealthy food practices, Atlantis (2008) indicated that Australian government sponsored TV advertisement (called ‘Get Moving’), promoting more physical activity and less sedentary behavior, on children’s choices, preferences, and ratings of liking for physical activities and sedentary behaviors.

Likert scale was used to know the preferences of children. Even in India campaign against unhealthy food advertisements has been started as Vadehra (2010) has emphasized that the debate over advertising junk food to children is also raging in India. However, despite these negatives, advertising law has come a long way in India and increased awareness of the issues concerning advertising to children is improving the situation. Methods In analyzing the impact of food advertisements on the children, we adopted variety of methods. Questionnaires

As children were targeted in our study, so children from the primary schools were studied in detail. Our sample size was hundred students. Ten students of age ranging from 8-13 years were taken from each school. In this way ten primary schools were visited where students were asked to fill the questionnaire. The questionnaire contained the closed ended questions regarding their access to Television, understanding towards advertisements, concept of fats, and influence of parents in their diets, impact of food advertisements on children purchasing preferences.

Questionnaire was also designed to find sources of advertisements attractive to 8-13 year old children and to figure out the consumption of junk food items among children after being exposed to food advertisements. In short, such questionnaire was designed in a comprehensive manner and in a simple language to identify the effect of advertisements on the pattern of food consumption among children. They were also given some explanation to develop their understanding towards questions included in the questionnaire. Observation

While apart from questionnaires, children were also observed during their mid break times and break off times in schools. Majority of them were found to purchase unhealthy foods like chocolates, biscuits, French fries and confectionaries (Toffees and Jellies). It was also observed that canteens were decorated with colorful poster advertisements of junk food items to gain the attention of the children. Such kind of advertisements was also found to be clustered around school locations. Such factors had contributed in promoting unhealthy food practices among children.

Interviews Apart from the previously mentioned ways, we also consulted teachers from the primary schools. We asked some questions regarding the pattern of eating preferences among children. They also emphasized that majority of the children purchase junk foods in response to the food advertisements. Even, parents of eight to thirteen year old children in shopping malls were interviewed, while they were shopping. Some questions regarding the children’s food preferences were asked from them.

Majority of the mothers came up with the opinion that children are not only attracted to aggressively marketed unhealthy food advertisements but also demand their parents to purchase them those unhealthy food being advertised. Some mothers also told that their children spent majority of their pocket money in purchasing the junk food items without their (mother’s) consent. This is the reason now they had reduced their pocket money. Small number of mothers agreed that they had strictly restricted their children from consuming junk food items and had provided them with homemade healthy foods.

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