Fast food TV ads influence a child's restaurant choice

Seventy-nine percent of the child-directed ads from those two restaurants aired on just four children's networks.

Washington D.C.: A new study has revealed that the more frequently a child views child-directed fast food TV ads, often involving a toy, the more likely the family visits the fast food restaurant that was featured in the advertising.

Using a database they compiled of all fast food TV ads that aired nationally in 2009, Jennifer A. Emond, PhD, and colleagues from the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth found that only two nationally-recognized fast food chains engaged in child-directed TV advertising at that time. According to Dr. Emond, "Seventy-nine percent of the child-directed ads from those two restaurants aired on just four children's networks."

For the study, the researchers enrolled 100 children (3-7 years of age) and one of their parents in the study. The parents completed a survey that included questions about how often their children watched each of the four children's networks, if their children requested visits to the two restaurants, if their children collected toys from those restaurants, and how often the family visited those restaurants.

They found that 37 percent of parents reported more frequent visits to the two fast food restaurants with child-directed TV ads and 44 percent of the children requested visits to at least one of the restaurants.

Also, out of the 29 percent of children who collected toys from the restaurants, almost 83 percent requested to visit one or both of the restaurants.

Jennifer Emond of the Geisel School of Medicine said that their best advice to parents was to switch their child to commercial-free TV programming to help avoid pestering for foods seen in commercials.

The study is published in the Journal of Pediatrics.

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