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The Impact of Child Obesity on Television in the Us

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Submitted By laraklein27
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The Impact of Television Food Advertising on Childhood Obesity
Lara Klein

Childhood obesity is a growing problem around the world, especially in the United State that is notably harmful as its effects are not only temporary but can have long term effects that can be taken into adulthood. Children’s food preferences are influenced by television advertising that focuses directly at children. It is furthermore concluded that children exposed to high amounts of television advertisements make poor food choices which leads to poor food consumption. Among other factors, parental influence is also critical and can change a child’s behavior towards food advertisement and food choices. Parents should look out to communicate advertisements’ effects to their children, and restrict the amount of time their children spend in front of the television. Moreover, governmental restrictions should be implemented to avoid persuasion of buying unhealthy foods to children at younger ages.

The Impact of Television Food Advertising on Childhood Obesity


According to Bacardi-Gascon and Jimenez-Cruz (2015), childhood obesity is a very serious topic in the United States these days, causing long term economic and social costs due to serious health problems, as well as an increase in morbidity and mortality. Research conducted by Bernhardt, Wilking, Gilbert-Diamond, Emond and Sargent has shown that the more television children watch, the likelihood that they are obese increases. Advertisement of food ads on television take up 50% of all the ad time on children’s shows on American television, which are mostly dominated by unhealthy food products, exposing children to television advertising that show unhealthy food products and that also persuade them and influence their preferences (2015).
In this research paper I want to talk about childhood obesity in the United States and how it can be linked to television advertising of foods. Children today watch a lot of television and are exposed to unhealthy food advertisements almost daily, if not even many hours a day. Those television ads are made especially for children to persuade them to buy that product. Children in younger ages do not know what is good for them so they are easily persuaded and create preferences which might lead them to dislike healthier food choices, as those are rarely advertised on television for children (Bacardi-Gascon & Gimenez, 2015).
According to Bacardi-Garcon and Jimenez-Cruz (2015) obesity is a universal disease causing nearly 3.4 million deaths annually. Research has shown that obesity among children is drastically increasing over the years in the United States (Hyunjae, 2011). As stated by Harvey in the past thirty years, childhood obesity rates have more than tripled. The rates in children aged six to eleven has increased from 7 to 20 percent, and aged twelve to nineteen years has increased from 5 to 18 percent (2013). Furthermore, at present, the National Center for Health Statistics have shown that obesity among children has increased five times compared to the rate of the 1970s. The percentage of children aged 6–11 years in the United States who were obese increased from 7% in 1980 to nearly 18% in 2012. Similarly, the percentage of adolescents aged 12–19 years who were obese increased from 5% to nearly 21% over the same period (2012).
The National Center for Health Statistics states that in 2012, approximately 12.7 million children and adolescents are obese, which are the results of too many calories consumed and too little calories burnt. Although obesity can also be affected genetically, in most cases it is influenced by behavioral and environmental factors (2012). Studies have shown that children have an excessive intake of dietary fats and sugar, and don’t consume the amount of micronutrients they should to stay healthy, which can lead to a fatty liver, type 2 diabetes, and a bunch of other diseases have negative effects on their health (Harvey, 2013). Obesity can also have negative effects on children’s emotions, leading them to have a negative body image, low self esteem and even depression (Bacardi-Garcon and Jimenez-Cruz (2015).
Furthermore, childhood obesity can have long-term effects including health problems and a 70 percent chance of being overweight or obese as adults, which can additionally lead to an increased risk of cancer, osteoarthritis and strokes, which on the other hand can lead to premature death (Harvey, 2013). Giving all these horrible consequences of childhood obesity, according to Hyunjae (2011), researchers have analyzed several factors that lead to unhealthy eating habits linked to obesity which are: deep seated preferences, adult behavior, parental food beliefs, siblings and peers, parents’ behavior, and the increased exposure to television snack and fast food advertising. As stated by Harvey (2013), child obesity is the number one health concern in the United States.


As stated by Chou, Rashad and Grossman, obesity can be measured by looking at the body mass index (BMI) and can be defined as the weight divided by the height. People that are overweight or obese would be those with a BMI greater than or equal to 30 kilograms per meter squared. “An overweight child is defined as one having a BMI at or above the 95th percentile based on age- and gender- specific growth charts for children and adolescents in Surveys conducted between 1963 and 2000. Those surveys also show a drastic increase in overweight children between the mid seventies and the year 2000 (2006).
According to Cezar, researchers have found that a crucial factor for childhood obesity is the time spent in front of the television, with studies showing that children that watch more than four to five hours of television a day were more likely to be overweight than children who watch less than two hours a day (2008). As stated by Harvey (2013), the amount of money being spent on television advertisements of food and beverages that are directed at children is increasing, while the content of these foods and beverages are mainly very unhealthy. Moreover, television viewing time often replaces time spent outside or doing physical activities that would improve ones’ health. (Chou, Raschad & Grossman).
Reisch et al. (2013) argued that food advertising influences food-related knowledge, preferences, attitudes and practices. Although parents are primarily responsible for overlooking what their children eat, there is not much they can do when their children are constantly being exposed to unhealthy advertisement on television, arguing that it is a national concern that must be addressed and regulations implemented (Harvey, 2013). Chou, Rashad and Grossman also argued that there is a correlation between the time in which childhood obesity increased so drastically and the time in which time spent watching television increased. In 1950, approximately 2 percent of households in the United States owned a television, by the early 1990s, 98 percent of households owned at least one.
US national cross-sectional surveys have found that there is a positive relationship between obesity and television viewing among children. (Cezar, 2008). Moreover, according to Hyunjae (2011), parents should regulate the amount of television their children watch, and more importantly communicate with their children about television food advertising and obesity, as children are exposed to about 5,500 food advertisements per year. Nevertheless, Cezar states that very few parents are actually aware of the commercial messages to which children are exposed on a daily basis (2008).
Although parental influences and responsibilities concerning children’s attitudes towards food choices are important factors, the government should look out to implement regulations and restrictions concerning food advertisements directed directly at children, in order to reduce overall obesity amongst children (Harvey, 2013). Research shows that 21 percent of advertisements on children’s channels were food related, majorly filled with fast food advertisements (Cezar, 2008).
As argued by Cezar (2008), these advertisements are set out to be appealing especially for children, as by doing so, those companies gain a lot of customers. Over the years, companies have developed many techniques to attract young customers that will request a purchase from their parents after being exposed to an appealing advertisement seen on television. The four main advertising methods to attract children are: spending a lot of money, mislead children, filling foods with ingredients that will make children come back for more, and finally, indirectly targeting parents (Harvey, 2013).
Harvey found that according to the Federal Trade Commission Report in 2008 stated that a combined total excess of $1.6 billion were spent by forty-four participating companies to promote children to consume their products. In total, corporations were spending a combined $10-15 billion alone on food and beverage advertisements aimed at children as from 2007 (2013). Hyunjae found that the average child in the United States is exposed to approximately 40,000 television commercials a year, with 83 percent of advertised foods directed at children being fast foods and sweets (2011). In addition, Termini, Roberto and Hostetter argue that researchers estimated that children view up to 3000 advertisements per day on television, the internet and in magazines, with sugared snacks filling 32 percent, cereal thirty-one percent and fast food nine percent of all advertisement marketed specifically to children (2011). Moreover, the majority of the advertisements aiming at children are for unhealthy foods and beverages, with 34 percent of television advertising being for candy and snacks, 29 percent for cereal, and only 4 percent for dairy products, and no advertisement at all for healthier foods. On top of that, these advertisements are mostly created by marketing experts that use different strategies to persuade children to buy their product (Harvey, 2013). Chou, Rashad & Grossman also argue that companies often use children’s favorite characters in their commercials, and make their advertisements especially fun and happy so that children will want to buy their product (2006). As children commonly don’t have a lot of money to spend, companies tend to indirectly target parents (Harvey, 2013).
Furthermore, children are very easily influenced by what they see on television, and are often unable to differentiate between commercials and regular programs and have hardly any knowledge about the persuasive intent these advertisements carry. Studies have also shown that children who watch television more often request brand-name products that are advertised on television (Chou, Rashad & Grossman, 2006). A study has shown that advertisement does have a direct impact on choices children make when choosing products, where three out of four children requested for food products they have seen on television. Another study where one group of children viewed a cartoon with commercials, while another group viewed the same cartoon without commercials. The result was that the children viewing the commercial were more likely to choose the products that were shown in the commercials rather than the children that saw the cartoon without commercials (Termini, Roberto & Hostetter, 2011).
An even bigger connection was found between advertisement of fast food products and obesity, as a study in the International Journal of Obesity recorded that children that consumed fast food at least three times a week spent more time watching television, than children who did not eat as much fast food (Termini, Roberto & Hostetter, 2011).


Numerous studies show that parents can have critical influence on their children’s attitude toward advertising, and also in the negative effects these advertisements can have (Hyunjae, 2011). An experiment conducted by Reisch et al. (2013) shows that there is a significant relation between children’s food habits and preferences, and the parental attitudes toward food advertisement. It proved that if parents were aware of the negative effects food advertisement can have on their children’s perception of food, it would have a positive outcome on their children’s food preferences.
Moreover, as argued by Hyunjae, researchers have found that there are three different types of parental intervention concerning television advertising which are; 1) active mediation, when parents criticize and make remarks about advertisements; 2) restrictive mediation, when parents control what advertisements their children view, mainly controlling the time their children are in front of the television; 3) consumer-related communication, the effect of the general communication style among families considering children’s responses to advertising (2011). The most effective way of preventing childhood obesity would be to reduce the amount of television watched by children, support an active lifestyle and offering them low-energy-dense foods (Harvey, 2013 & Hyunjae, 2011).
Harvey argues that if we banned all television advertisements for fast food, childhood obesity would go down by 18 percent. As this is unlikely to happen, the federal government is looking to change the ways in which food and beverage advertisements are presented to children. In 2006 The Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI) was formed, with a self regulatory program to change the way advertisement directed at children under the age of 12, and to promote a healthier lifestyle. The CFBAI focuses on five major principles which are: 1) companies will only advertise products that are better for you 2) companies will only link game giveaways with healthier products 3) companies will only use testimonials that comply with their advertising promises 4) companies will not look to set out product placements in programs made for children under twelve 5) companies will not advertise branded food or beverages in elementary schools (2013).
Even though the CFBAI is a step in the right direction, unfortunately it is not yet enough to end childhood obesity which is linked to food advertising on television. Harvey (2013) argues that Congress should remind itself of how successful the banning of child-directed tobacco advertisements has been, and implement some similar regulations about the health concerning problem of childhood obesity.
As stated by Hyunjae (2011), next to implemented regulations, parental intervention on their children while watching television is of great importance and was found to have great influence on the way children develop an attitude toward television food advertising. Nevertheless, in overall the government can affect the preferences of children more effectively and more rapidly, as it has access to school programs, school lunches, athletic facilities and so on.
According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (Termini, Roberto & Hostetter) the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables for children is three to five servings a day. Nevertheless, research has found that only one in five children consumed the necessary amount a day, and about one-fourth of the vegetables consumed by children were French fries (2011). This most likely is another result of television advertisements of foods, and the misconception about what foods are healthy and which aren’t. Research also shows that a great amount of children, don’t know what food items are healthy and aren’t aware about the health benefits concerning certain types of foods (Termini, Roberto & Hostetter, 2011).


In conclusion, even though childhood obesity is not precisely connected to television advertisement, it is plausible to say that there is a very strong interrelationship between the two as it research has shown that food advertisement can indeed affect children’s eating habits. Studies and research implement that children take with them what they watch on television, and develop preferences that impact their dietary practices, as they are more easily persuaded by the marketing methods and have less knowledge about the health consequences that bad dietary habits can have in the short- and long-term.
Food advertisers are taking advantage of children’s naïve way of thinking by making it look as if junk food was part of a normal healthy lifestyle, instead of promoting healthier food products that lead to a healthier lifestyle.
Although regulations have been implemented to some extent in the United States, these rules are rarely enforced as they are not really being monitored strictly. And without those regulations, children will carry on believing that the food they see on television is healthy and can be consumed daily. Moreover, it is crucial that parents are informed about what their children watch and more importantly restrict the amount of time their children spend in front of the television, and rather encourage their children to do more physical activities. Parents should also communicate to their children what foods can be considered as healthy, and how a healthy and balanced diet should look like, as advertisers alone cannot be held responsible for wrong food choices of children. Furthermore, the implementation of healthier food advertisements should be supported and forced into televisions, as there don’t seem to be any of those at current state, and as research has proven, children’s food choices are affected by television advertisement, meaning that they might start shifting their food preferences to healthier choices.


Bacardí-Gascón, M., & Jiménez-Cruz, A. (2015). TV Food advertising geared to children in Latin American countries and Hispanics in the USA: a review. Nutricion Hospitalaria, 31(5), 1928-1935. doi:10.3305/nh.2015.31.5.8730.
Bernhardt, A. M., Wilking, C., Gilbert-Diamond, D., Emond, J. A., & Sargent, J. D. (2015). Children’s Recall of Fast Food Television Advertising—Testing the Adequacy of Food Marketing Regulation. Plos ONE, 10(3), 1-12. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0119300.
Boyland, E. J., Harrold, J. A., Kirkham, T. C., & Halford, J. G. (2011). The extent of food advertising to children on UK television in 2008.International Journal Of Pediatric Obesity, 6(5/6), 455-461. doi:10.3109/17477166.2011.608801.
Cezar, Aleathia (2008) "The Effects of Television Food Advertising on Childhood Obesity," Nevada Journal of Public Health: Vol. 5: Iss. 1, Article 2.
Chou, S., Rashad, I. & Grossman M. (2006). Fast-Food Restaurant Advertising on Television and Its Influence on Childhood Obesity.
Handsley, E., Mehta, K., & Coveney, J. (2014). A Children's Rights Perspective on Food Advertising to Children. International Journal Of Children's Rights, 22(1), 93-134. doi:10.1163/15718182-55680024.
Harvey, A. (2013). A Proposal for Congressionally Mandated Federal Regulation of Child-Directed Food and Beverage Television Advertisements to Combat Childhood Obesity. Health Matrix: Journal Of Law-Medicine,23(2), 607-637.
Hyunjae (Jay), Y. (2011). Parental Communication Style's Impact on Children's Attitudes Toward Obesity and Food Advertising. Journal Of Consumer Affairs, 45(1), 87-107. doi:10.1111/j.1745-6606.2010.01193.
National Center for Health Statistics. Health, United States, 2011: With Special Features on Socioeconomic Status and Health . Hyattsville, MD; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; 2012.
Reisch, L. A., Gwozdz, W., Barba, G., De Henauw, S., Lascorz, N., & Pigeot, I. (2013). Experimental Evidence on the Impact of Food Advertising on Children's Knowledge about and Preferences for Healthful Food. Journal Of Obesity, 20131-13. doi:10.1155/2013/408582.
Thomas, S. L., Olds, T., Pettigrew, S., Yeatman, H., Hyde, J., & Dragovic, C. (2014). Parent and child interactions with two contrasting anti-obesity advertising campaigns: a qualitative analysis. BMC Public Health, 14(1), 1-19. doi:10.1186/1471-2458-14-151.

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...History of Color Television 8 1.3 The Inventor of Television 10 1.4 The Definition of Television 12 1.5 Current Issues 13 Positive and Negative Effects of Television 13 1.5.1 Positive Effects of Television on Children 13 • Television as education 13 • Moderation 13 • Family bonding through television 13 • Educational programs 14 • Amusement 14 • Catalyst for reading 14 • Wonder 14 • Introduces new cultures 15 • Bridge to conversations 15 • Other positive effects 15 1.5.1 Negative Effects of Television on Children 16 • Violence 16 • Passivity 16 • Risky behaviors 16 • Obesity 16 1.5.2 Positive Effects of Television on Society 17 • Spreading Information 17 • Creating Memories 17 • Social Media 17 1.5.3 Negative Effects of Television on Society 18 • Desensitized to Violence 18 • Increased Aggression in Adults 18 1.5.4 Positive Effects of Television on Nation 19 1.5.5 Negative Effects of Television on Nation 20 1.6 How to Influence Positive Behavior of Watching Television in Children 21 1.7 Understanding Television Ratings and the V-Chip 23 1.8 The Effects on the Economy 25 a) Children Buy 25 b) Advertising Sales 25 c) Hollywood Profits 25 1.9 The Effects on the Culture 27 1.10 The Effect on the Politic 28 1.11 The Statistics. 29 1.12 Objective of Television 31 2. Findings from interview with the media practitioner 32 3. Conclusion 33 4. Bibliography 34 LIST OF FIGURES Figure 1: Scanning Disk Television Set......

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Is the Popular Korean Animation Character Pororo Really an Educational Friend?

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Childhood Obesity

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