Does TV and internet advertising feed children’s junk food habits?

“Every hour kids spend online increases chance of buying junk food by a fifth,” reports The Daily Telegraph.

A Cancer Research UK survey of almost 2,500 children found those who used the internet or watched commercial television for more than half an hour a day were more likely to ask for, buy or eat junk food (food high in fat, salt and sugar).

Researchers found the primary school-age children surveyed spent an average of 16 hours a week on the internet.

They found 4 of the 5 most popular websites the children used were commercial sites that display online advertising.

That compares to an average of 22 hours of television a week, 12 hours of which was on commercial channels that show adverts.

There are currently no UK guidelines on screen time for children. These are expected in 2019.

What did the study find?

Researchers found links between the amount of time children spent watching TV or on the internet and their likelihood of being overweight, asking for junk food, and buying and eating certain types of junk food.

Time spent watching commercial TV or online wasn’t linked to children’s activity levels.

Each additional hour children spent watching commercial TV was linked to:

  • a 22% increased chance of children asking for food they’d seen advertised
  • a 21% increased chance of children buying food they’d seen advertised
  • a 23% increased chance of them consuming sugary drinks
  • an 18% increased chance of consuming pastries
  • a 16% increased chance of consuming crisps and sweets

Each additional hour children spent online was linked to:

  • a 19% increased chance of children asking for food they’d seen advertised
  • a 19% increased chance of children buying food they’d seen advertised
  • a 9% increased chance of them consuming sugary drinks
  • a 13% increased chance of them consuming pastries and sweet biscuits
  • a 12% increased chance of consuming sweets

Children who watched more than 3 hours of commercial TV a day were 59% more likely to be overweight or obese than children who watched half an hour a day or less.

Those who used the internet more than 3 hours a day were 79% more likely to be overweight or obese than children who used the internet half an hour a day or less.

What does this mean for you?

The study results suggest that watching commercial TV or using internet sites with advertising may be linked to children’s desire for high-sugar, high-fat and high-salt foods they see advertised.

Cancer Research UK has called for the government to ban junk food advertising altogether on TV before 9pm and bring in similar protection for children exposed to advertising online.

Parents wanting to avoid “pester power” might want to think about restricting the amount of time their children spend online, as well as watching commercial TV.

But it’s important to note that we don’t know whether these results mean TV or internet use directly causes obesity or increased junk food consumption.

Obesity and diet are complicated, and many different factors are likely to be involved. For example, parents have a big influence on children’s diets, as well as on how much TV and internet use they’re allowed.


Caring Children’s Charity Chooses Caring Media Agency

The team at The Media Angel are delighted to kick-start 2015 with a new client; leading children’s hospice charity Tŷ Hafan – one of the UK’s top paediatric palliative care charities, based in Sully, South Wales.

One of the key objectives at The Media Angel is to work with organisations that make a real difference to people’s lives. Starting this month, The Media Angel is helping to promote the opportunity to bequeath Tŷ Hafan a legacy gift in your Will.

Since 1999, Tŷ Hafan has helped over 600 Welsh families with children to make the most of their precious time left together, and one in five of the children Tŷ Hafan support is cared for thanks to the gifts that have been left in Wills.

Alison Debono, Managing Director of The Media Angel said: 

“I feel really privileged to be working with such an amazing organisation such as Tŷ Hafan . The work they do is unbelievable and makes a huge difference to families who must be going through such a hard time.”

This marketing campaign consists of a mix of innovative video-on-demand advertising using ITV Player, targeting adults across Wales, and print adverts across highly circulated press and magazine titles to help share and raise awareness of the amazing work that Tŷ Hafan does.

Alison added:

“We wanted to make sure that the right media platforms were used for their precious budget, and we are confident the campaign will get to the right people across the right areas.”

Laura Barlow, Legacy and In Memory Fundraiser from Tŷ Hafan said:

“It’s been great working with Alison and her team at The Media Angel. Based on our brief they came up with innovative ideas and selected media options that we hadn’t before considered a possibility; particularly with some of the new digital on-demand services.

“The team has been so helpful; they are flexible, supportive and we are very much looking forward to a continued partnership and friendship in the future.”

To find out more about the legacy ‘Leave a Gift’ campaign, watch the video at:

Contact Tŷ Hafan for a free information pack via email: [email protected] or call: 029 2053 2265.

If you’d like help with any of your marketing campaigns then please get in contact with The Media Angel on 02921 320200, or email: [email protected]. We are here to help.

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