The U.S. has a few regulations regarding TV food and beverage advertising to children, including industry self-regulatory policies. However, federal agencies have limited power to regulate against unfair and deceptive advertising practices to children.37 In 2006, in partnership with the Council of Better Business Bureau’s Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI), a coalition of food companies pledged to improve the nutritional quality of foods advertised to children under the age of 12 years.38 Also, the IOM committee has offered 10 recommendations to address activities by the food industry and public sector to support a healthful diet to children and adolescents.6 A review evaluating the progress made by industry stakeholders in marketing healthful foods to children revealed that food and beverage companies made some progress in promoting healthier products, but that limited progress was made by restaurants, industry trade associations and the media.38 Despite the reported progress, overall TV food advertising to young children has increased by 9% between 2008 and 2010.39 In addition, more than a quarter of all food/beverage advertising to children is from companies that do not participate in the coalition, including the majority of fast food establishments.38,40
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
Essay on Impact and Effects of Advertising on Young Children
While multiple factors influence eating behaviours and food choices of youth, two potent forces are television (TV) viewing and exposure to TV food advertising. In the United States, children and adolescents watch TV for almost four and a half hours each day.1 During this time, children between the ages of 2 to 12 are exposed to up to a total of 38 minutes of advertising each day. Food advertising accounts for half of all advertising time in children’s TV programs. Children between 2 to 7 years see 12 food ads and those between 8 to 12 years see 21 food ads each day, or 7,609 ads each year.2 While some data indicate that food advertising to young children has decreased since a peak in 2004,3 the number of food advertisements and the types of foods advertised remains disturbing.
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Family communication and media education is an important component in mediating the negative effects of advertising on children’s dietary behaviours. Although limited research exists in this area, the findings indicate that parental communication about advertising and setting rules about food consumption was more successful in reducing energy-dense food consumption by their children than open discussion about consumption.36 However it was more effective when parents imposed restrictions of advertising exposure to pre-school and early elementary school children than to older children.36
Childhood Obesity — The Shape of Things to Come — …
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