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TV ads for kids focusing on junk food over sweets

Television advertisers are directing fewer of their commercials for sweets and beverages at children and young adults, but the number of fast food ads directed at those groups has increased, a study by U.S. researchers suggests.

Children viewing fewer commercials for sweets, more for junk food: U.S. study

Television advertisers are directing fewer of their commercials for sweets and beverages at children and young adults, but the number of fast food ads directed at those groups has increased, a study by U.S. researchers suggests.

In order to assess advertising trends, researchers at the University of Chicago reviewed television ratings data from 2003, 2005 and 2007.

Children are seeing more ads for fast food, which the Institute of Medicine says affect their dietary behaviours.
Children watch an average of three and a half hours of television a day, according to the study, and TV is the primary advertising medium to reach children and youth.

Between 2003 and 2007, overall daily exposure to food ads directed at children age two to five decreased by 13.7 per cent. For children age six to 11, it dropped 3.7 per cent. But for kids age 12 to 17, exposure to food ads increased by 3.7 per cent.

Advertising for sweets underwent the most dramatic drop, with a 41 per cent decrease in commercials directed at two- to five-year-olds and 29.3 per cent drop for six- to 11-year-olds.

At the same time, fast food ads directed at the youngest age group went up 4.7 per cent while the middle group saw an increase of 12.2 per cent. Fast food ads directed at teens jumped 20.4 per cent.

According to the research, themes of fun and happiness were the most common ways of appealing to viewers and persuading them to buy the advertised products.

The Institute of Medicine, an independent health policy organization, has concluded there's strong evidence that television advertising influences short-term food consumption and moderate evidence that it influences children's usual dietary intake.

The study concludes there have been improvements in how advertisers attempt to influence children to consume junk food but that more work is needed.

The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association's Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine.

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