The Effects of Advertising on Childhood and Adult Obesity

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Have you ever asked a child what they want to eat for dinner or lunch and their response was a hearty vegetable? Or does that answer usually sound more like pizza or McDonalds? More than fifty percent of commercials or advertisements that children see while watching television or on the internet are food related. Commercials are so influential on children because they target them in particular by the colors and funny advertisements, and catchy jingles. Commercials catch children's attention without them even noticing, but once they are in a grocery store they recognize them everywhere. I believe that child obesity can be linked to food advertisements, or at least have a big reason on why it is such an epidemic right now. According to The American Psychological Association and The Henry J Kaiser Family Foundation, the more that obesity affects children, the more advertisements they are exposed to because children are no longer outside occupying themselves. Exercise definitely plays a part in this as well, but if they are not keeping themselves preoccupied in a healthy way, and choosing to watch television, they are inevitably going to be exposed to advertisements. People are more likely to find kids watching shows, or videos on the internet with a food advertisement at least every 10 minutes. This epidemic is beginning a never ending cycle of childhood obesity, with little to no healthy outcome. I believe that there is a significant link of food advertisements with childhood obesity, and it needs to come to an end.

Children spend a majority of their time watching television, on the internet, or doing things that require watching advertisements. Researchers have found that more than 50% of advertisements on kid channels are food related and more than 80% of them are of fast food and sugar filled snacks, including candy, unhealthy cereals, and easy foods. There are no advertisements found on kid channels that are showing vegetables or fruits. According to the American psychological association “Other research has found that children who watch more than three hours of television a day are 50 percent more likely to be obese than children who watch fewer than two hours.” (2020) Furthermore, the author explains that children who are watching this much television have so much more exposure to advertisement and it leads to obesity but it becomes a never ending cycle because once they reach this level of weight gain, they are more likely to spend more time watching things that lead to these advertisements. Nowadays, people are more likely to find children using tablets or their parents phones to preoccupy themselves, rather than playing outside and getting exercise. Additionally, I believe that if children spent less time on the internet, or watching television that they have less of a chance of becoming obese because they would be getting more excersize and would not be exposed to as much advertisements leading them to want unhealthy food. Overall, I believe that children do spend too much time watching television requiring them to be susceptible to the advertisements.

Did you know that according to the American Psychological Association children's shows rarely advertise healthy food choices. The American Psychological Association says that “34 percent for candy and snacks, 28 percent for cereal, 10 percent for fast food, 4 percent for dairy products, 1 percent for fruit juices, and 0 percent for fruits or vegetables.” (2020) Therefore, children don’t come into contact with healthy food choices on their own, unless suggested by someone close to them. If they are to think of something that they would like their parents to get from the store for their breakfast or dinner they are going to think about that catchy commercial that they had seen either that day, rather then remembering that vegetables and fruits are the healthier choice. I believe that on kid television shows, they should promote a healthier diet. Although some make it seem like the cereal that they are promoting is healthy, it fails to mention how much sugar they have pumped into it that makes the kids want to continue to eat it in the first place. People never know how “healthy” a food product really is by watching their advertisements because they are never going to tell them how much sugar is in their product or how many calories are in one serving. Most of the time, one bag or package isn't one serving but that doesn't stop anyone from consuming the entire thing. They reel people in by thinking that their product is the healthiest and most convenient product on the shelves and without research, it is easy to believe. In all, food commercials and advertisements are going to lead people to their unhealthy food choices.

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Although advertising may take a huge part of childhood obesity today, there is also the obvious statement of why are the children exposed to this much television advertisement in the first place? Well, maybe if the kids weren’t spending so much time watching television and were more active they wouldn't be in the same health problems that they are now. I believe that is true because according to The Henry J Kaiser Family Foundation, “the prevalence of obesity increased by 2% for each additional hour of television viewed.” (2) If children were to cut down on their watching times they would be more likely to be more active, which would be helping their weight to begin with. The Henry J Kaiser Family Foundation also states that “29% of the cases of obesity could be prevented by reducing television viewing to 0 to 1 hour per week” (2) In other words, if children were to cut the time that they watch television out completely there would be less cases of childhood obesity. I believe that is true for two different reasons. One being that, like I have already said, they would be more active and would be more prone to exercising during physical activity rather than sitting on the couch. Secondly, they would not be exposed to all of the unhealthy food choices that the advertisements have to offer. I know that it is not possible to remove all advertisements from your life, that is nearly impossible to do because you are surrounded by them everywhere that you go. Although, I do believe that you do have the choice to limit yourself to how many you actually come across on a daily basis by cutting the time that you spend on the internet or watching television shows a day at least by half.

The child is not the only person at fault for obesity. Parents have a part of the blame, if not a majority of it since it is something that starts at such a young age. When David Zinczenko had said “Kids taking on McDonald’s this week, suing the company for making them fat. Isn't that like the middle-aged med suing Porsche for making them get speeding tickets?” (647) it made me start thinking, are the kids really all to blame? I believe that kids at a certain age have no clue what they are getting themselves into. Are they going to watch McDonald’s commercials and want to eat a happy meal? Probably, but who are the ones buying them? Their parents are. They are the ones that should be able to make the healthier decisions for their kids. So, I personally do not agree with Zinczenko, because the grown men speeding in porches know consciously what they are doing. On the other note, the parents allow their children to spend hours watching advertisements, then go out to purchase the unhealthy food that lead to their bad eating habits. Instead of them entertaining their kids in other ways they are allowing television to do it, so advertisements take over.

Overall, I believe that there is a strong link of television and their advertisements to childhood obesity because children are more exposed to the unhealthy food choices that they are watching and their lack of physical exercise because they are watching hours of television a day. Altogether, I agree with The Henry J Kaiser Family Foundation and American Psychological Foundation completely on their correlations as well. Advertisements and the companies who create them know exactly what they are doing, and who their commercials are going to attract. With their catchy jingles and their mascots that kids love so much, it is going to keep the kids wanting more and continuing the cycles of childhood obesity. I believe that we need to put a stop to the amount of television that children watch, and that will limit the amount of advertisement that they see a day. I know that it will not stop obesity completely but if it could help minimize 29% of obesity cases like the Henry J Kaiser Family Foundation says, I think it is worth a shot.

Works Cited

  1. “The Impact of Food Advertising on Childhood Obesity.” American Psychological Association, American Psychological Association, 2020, www.apa.org/topics/kids-media/food.
  2. The Role of Media in Childhood Obesity, The Henry J Kaiser Family Foundation, Feb. 2004, www.kff.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/the-role-of-media-in-childhood-obesity.pdf.
  3. Zinczenko, David. “Don't Blame the Eater.” They Say I Say, 4th ed., pp. 647–647.
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The Effects of Advertising on Childhood and Adult Obesity. (2022, Jun 09). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 13, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/the-effects-of-advertising-on-childhood-and-adult-obesity/
“The Effects of Advertising on Childhood and Adult Obesity.” Edubirdie, 09 Jun. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/the-effects-of-advertising-on-childhood-and-adult-obesity/
The Effects of Advertising on Childhood and Adult Obesity. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/the-effects-of-advertising-on-childhood-and-adult-obesity/> [Accessed 13 Apr. 2024].
The Effects of Advertising on Childhood and Adult Obesity [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Jun 09 [cited 2024 Apr 13]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/the-effects-of-advertising-on-childhood-and-adult-obesity/
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