A new study by Cancer Research UK found that children ages 8 to 12 linked junk food with having a good time. The children also stated that television commercials for junk food made them hungry and left them craving the food on the screen.
Children from 6 UK schools were interviewed after watching 2 television advertisements for junk food to examine how the media both impacts the food choices of children and the link to childhood obesity. According to Cancer Research UK, children described junk food as “addictive” and “tempting” and stated that they could “lick the screen” when shown advertisements for unhealthy foods.
Currently in the UK, junk food cannot be advertised during children’s shows, however, researchers found that children are still influenced by them when they watch television later in the day. The study found that children were attracted to bright colors, funny voices and celebrities within the commercials.
They also liked that most of people in the advertisements appeared to be having a good time when eating the unhealthy food. What’s more, children are heavily attracted to new flavors or designs that might catch their eyes in the grocery store, which means they will often ask their parents for the product when out and about.
Alison Cox, director of prevention at Cancer UK stated:
“Most kids said that adverts made them feel hungry and in many cases it had a direct effect, with some children more likely to ‘plead’, ‘nag’ or ‘beg’ their parents after seeing an advert.
While not allowing junk food ads during kid’s television shows is a great step, it seems that the restrictions already in place aren’t enough. Children are watching junk food adverts during family programs, where these restrictions don’t apply.
The rise in children’s obesity is a huge concern and a growing epidemic. There must be no delay in taking action. We know that obese children are around five times more likely to be obese adults, and obese adults are more likely to develop cancer.”
Cancer UK is one organization that is calling for a ban on junk food advertising before 9pm in an attempt to help curb the epidemic even further. They state that their research shows that 74 percent of the UK public is on board with this suggestion.
Anna Scanlon is an author of YA and historical fiction and a PhD student at the University of Leicester where she is finishing her degree in modern history.