Children of all ages are vulnerable to influence from exposure to unhealthy food advertisements, but experts raise additional concerns about children under 6 due to their more limited cognitive abilities. Most companies in the U.S. Children's Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI) industry self-regulatory program pledge to not direct any advertising to children under 6. However, young children also watch programming primarily directed to older children and thus may view food-related advertising despite companies' pledges. Research is required to understand the amount and potential impact of this exposure on preschool-age children. Study 1 uses Nielsen advertising exposure data to compare preschoolers' (2–5 years) and older children's (6–11 years) exposure to food advertising in 2015. Preschoolers viewed on average 3.2 food ads daily on children's programming, just 6% fewer compared to 6- to 11-year-olds; over 60% were placed by CFBAI-participating companies. Study 2 exposed young children (N = 49) in a child-care setting to child-directed food ads, measured their attitudes about the ads and advertised brands, and compared responses by 4- to 5-year-olds and 6- to 7-year olds. Most children indicated that they liked the child-directed ads, with media experience associated with greater liking for both age groups. Ad liking and previous consumption independently predicted brand liking for both age groups, although previous consumption was a stronger predictor for older children. Despite pledges by food companies to not direct advertising to children under age 6, preschoolers continue to view advertisements placed by these companies daily, including on children's programming. This advertising likely increases children's preferences for nutritionally poor advertised brands. Food companies and media companies airing children's programming should do more to protect young children from advertising that takes advantage of their vulnerabilities.
Appetite – Elsevier
Published: Apr 1, 2018
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