Study shows food ads dominate children's programs

by Eric Schroeder
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WASHINGTON — Children, and especially tweens (ages 8 to 12), see more television advertisements for food than for any other product, according to a new study released today by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The study, "Food for Thought: Television Food Advertising to Children in the United States," combined content analysis of 1,638 hours of television content, including 8,854 food ads, with detailed data about children’s viewing habits, providing an estimate of the number and type of TV ads seen by children of various ages.

According to the study — the largest ever conducted of TV food advertising to children — tweens saw the most food ads, about 21 ads a day, or more than 7,600 a year. Teenagers ages 13-17 came in second, at 17 a day, followed by children ages 2 to 7, who saw the least number of food ads, at 12 per day.

Food was the top product advertised across all age groups, with 32% of all ads seen by children ages 2 to 7, 25% for tweens and 22% for teenagers.

"Children of all ages see thousands of food ads a year, but tweens see more than any other age group," said Vicky Rideout, vice-president and director of the Program for the Study of Entertainment Media and Health at the Kaiser Family Foundation. "Since tweens are at an age where they’re just becoming independent consumers, understanding what type of advertising they are exposed to is especially important."

The study found 34% of all food ads were for candy and snacks, 28% for cereal, 10% for fast foods, 4% for dairy products and 1% for fruit juices. None of the 8,854 ads reviewed were for fruits or vegetables targeting children or teens.

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