Children’s Food Choices Influenced by Ads

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In a new study, it has been found out that the food choices of children are heavily influenced by advertisements they see. The researchers shared that although parental encouragement plays a big role in having children choose the foods they eat, when compared to message and appeal of commercials and advertisements, parental influence tends to become weaker.

Dr. Christopher Ferguson, lead author of the study, and assistant professor in Behavioral and Applied Science and Criminal Justice, as well as his colleagues studied about 75 children aging from three to five years old. These children were invited to choose one of the two fastfood chains after watching two advertisements—one with a healthy option and the other with unhealthy foods.

In a statement to the press, Ferguson said, “Parental encouragement to eat healthy was somewhat able to help undo the message of commercials, although the effects of parents were smaller than we had anticipated.”

Ferguson and his group placed the children in two groups. Both the groups were asked to watch two cartoon films with a commercial in between them. In one group, the commercial shown was for French fries and for the other, they were shown apple slices with dipping sauce. As the children were asked to make their choices, the parents were with them. Half of the parents were asked to remain neutral while the other half were asked to encourage their children to choose the healthier option (apple slice with dipping sauce).

In the results, it was shown that:

-       71% of the children who watched the French fries advert and whose parents remained neutral opted for the French fries.

-       However, of those who watched the French fries advert and whose parents advised them to take the healthier option, 55% still went for the French fries, a higher figure than the researchers anticipated.

-       46% of the children who watched the advert for apple slices and whose parents remained neutral opted for the French fries.

-       33% of the children who watched the advert for apple slices and whose parents encouraged them to go for the healthier option also opted for the French fries.

According to him, “Children were clearly influenced by the commercials they saw; however, parents are not powerless. Parents have an advantage if they are consistent with their long-term messages about healthy eating.”

He also shared that instead of banning the advertisements which encourages eating unhealthy foods, the focus should be geared towards finding effective ways to promote the healthier foods. He said that advertisements can either work for or against healthy eating, being a powerful tool that can convince the mind.

 

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