How are Fast Food Advertising and Childhood Obesity Related

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Updated: Dec 02, 2022
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By 1950s, fast food industry boom was in full swing. It was secured in 1951. In the 1950s, McDonald has become a staple of the American diet. Fast food restaurants have been grown more and more and by now, there are over one hundred and sixty thousands fast food restaurants in the United States, becoming a one hundred and ten billion dollar industry. One can’t deny that fast food has become really important in American life nowadays. Whether Americans are too busy to work to support their families, too poor to get nutritious food, or just for the fact that its taste is good.

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Just to imagine one day one wakes up late and he does not even have enough time to take a shower, having breakfast or packing lunch becomes something impossible, and fast food makes everything seem easier for him. A greasy and delicious burger is not only good, but it is also quick, cheap, and satisfies his hunger. By the way, the fast food industry is really smart. They come up with many tricky business strategies to make money. One of them is targeting to children because they know that kids do not really know what they really want to eat yet, but they will readily cry and scream to make their parents take them to a fast food restaurant because of the toys in that fast food restaurant’s advertisement. They also know that American parents are always willing to buy anything their kids want to have. However, a lot Do 2 of people do not know that behind a delicious and harmless burger is a dangerous result if they eat too much fast food or eat them regularly. As it was mentioned before, the fast food industry is targeting to children and one of their sly business strategies is advertising. The television industry is part of the entertainment business and has high entertainment value for viewers because every house has at least a television. At the same time, it is important as a means of transmitting advertising. And kids are the best fans of advertisement.

They can spend hours to watch their only-one favorite advertisement without being bored. Understanding that, the fast food industry has invested much time and energy in an entertain fast food advertisement for kids. And because of that, advertisers target kids to make them want to eat more fast food and they become indirect agents of childhood obesity. From the children’s perspective advertising seen, children from 2 to 12 years old will see considerably more advertising than any other ages. In “Television Food Advertising to Children in the United States” of a Kaiser Family Foundation report in 2007, they make a survey that if children from three groups of age, 2 to 7, 8 to 12, and 13 to 17 years old are actually exposed to when they watch television or not. This study describes the content that children see, given how, what, and when they watch television. They see that in an hour, children from 2 to 7 watch the most program promotions. They see 3 minutes and 21 seconds per hour of promos, while 8-to-12-year-olds see 2 minutes and 32 seconds, and 13-to-17-year-olds are 2 minutes and 31 seconds. One of the reasons here is kids from 2 to 7 years old usually watch Disney channel, Cartoon Network, Nicktoons, and Nickelodeon, which 79% of the more than 25,000 fast food advertisements aimed at kids aired on these channels, networks feature more advertising content Do 3 than any other channels in the sample. What’s more, the survey shows that children ages 2 to 12 see an average of 12 to 21 food ads a day on TV. Also, half of all advertising time on children’s shows is for food. For types of food products in advertising targeting children, 10% are for fast food, while only 4% are for dairy products, 1% are for fruit juices, and none are for fruits and vegetables. There, because children from 2 to 12 watch television the most, they will see so many food ads, and they will be the group that is most affected by food marketing.

A different research shows that most children under age 8 can’t understand the persuasive intent of advertising. Media has become a dominant force in every children’s lives nowadays. It means kids are easy to get involved with anything from media. They spend most of their time using computers, televisions, smartphones, and some other technology devices. So why the media has a big role in childhood obesity? In “Children, Adolescents, and the Media” from American Academy of Pediatrics says that even though media is not the leading cause of any major health problem in the United States, people can still see that it does contribute significantly to a lot of different risks and health problems. From that, children and teenagers will see and may be affected negatively by the media, specifically from advertising. Advertising directed at children is by its very nature exploitative. By using colors and the characters or toys which kids love, advertisers can easily attract them. Under 8 years old, what these kids know is only if the advertisement is interesting, colorful or not, and they will only want to buy that product or that food because of their interest instead of the quality or the taste. Furthermore, when they use the media when they are too young, they will not know which is good and which is bad. They can be easy to be into it and can follow whatever the media says. Do 4 Fast food advertising targets kids and makes them eat more fast food. In the July 2016, the journal Obesity Reviews published a research that within as little as 30 minutes after exposing to the advertisements, advertisements for fast food can increase the number of unhealthy food choices kids make in the future. In Canada, the United States and Germany, children are exposed to an average of five food advertisements in an hour, for greater than 80% with fast food accounting of all televised food advertisements (Lee).

What’s more, in Food And Wine news, in an article “Advertising that Targets Kids Makes Them Eat More Fast Food”, they make a study which links child-targeted fast food advertisement and an increase in fast food consumption in an early age group. “Children with moderate and high levels of McDonald’s ad exposure were 38 percent more likely to have eaten at McDonald’s in the past week compared with children with no exposure (Food And Wine).” They also make a survey show that 41% of kids are exposed to advertisements while 43% eat fast food whether they are exposed to advertisements or not. It shows that children have already been in love with unhealthy food like fast food, so when they have a chance to get to know more about it, they will even love it to eat them more. If the advertising also includes toys or some types of characters which kids love, they will absolutely want their parents to buy.

In “The Influence of Advertising on Children” from We Have Kids says “ads are much more pervasive and less recognizable as a sales pitch.” It gives an example that by choosing to go eat at a fast food restaurant, a child may receive a toy. That toy may be related to a character from a movie, a cartoon or a video game which he loves. For instance, Minions are imagined yellow characters in a cartoon named “Despicable” which beloved by not only kids but also teenagers, adults and even seniors. Understanding that, Do 5 McDonald uses them to make advertisements and toys to attract kids to come and buy them. As what they expect, more and more kids love to come and try to make their parents take them to McDonald. It shows that kids can be influenced by advertising, especially kids from 2 to 12. Unfortunately, a lot of parents think that a 3-year-old kid is too young to be affected by advertising, but they are. The significant development of commercial industry leads to the fact that advertisements, as well as advertisers, have an exact influence on people’s lives. According to many studies, food advertisements indirectly affect children’s habits, especially their eating routine by stimulating them eating more fast food, known as high-calorie foods, and cause an overweight problem at kids as well as teenagers.

Take the number from the Center for Diseases Controls and Prevention (CDC), in 1980, the percentage of obese children aged 6 to 11 has more than doubled when the rate for adolescents has tripled. Recently, the rate for overweight children from 2 to 5 is 10% and from 6 to 19 is even higher at 15%. Compared to the number of advertisements kids watched during the same period, they estimate there are more than 30000 ads watched by kids each year in the late 80s and even more worryingly, in recent years, the estimated number raises over 40000 ads per year. Noticeably, ads for high-calorie foods take nearly ¾ of the total amount for kids, respectively candies with 32%, cereal with 31% and fast food with 9%. The percentage of fast food may not the highest, however, it appears more and more in front of kids’ eyes. With the colorful palatable appearance, these high fat and sodium foods attract children attention, which gradually causes desires to buy and consume these foods. Furthermore, thanks to food advertisements, the eating industry collects at least $35 billion from kids aged 12 and below just Do 6 in 2004. The number shows the fact that children are willing to spend a great deal of their own money on fast food, even not mention the expenditure of adolescents. It is undeniable that kids are potentially targeted by advertisers that they are not only predictable but also easily satisfied. For instance, seeing that children love those colorful ear-catching advertisements, advertisers tend to make advertise with hot colors and funny dancing songs. The advertisements stay in their minds and are re-played every single day until they really become a habit of kids. Fast food advertising has already been linked to rising obesity rates. In “Junk Food Ads and Child Obesity: The Link Parents Must Know” from Very Well Health News, it has given a fact that obesity rates among children have been increasing worldwide, and marketing of junk foods to kids should probably be contributing to the problem.

In “The impact of food advertising on childhood obesity” from American Psychological Association (APA), they find out that in preschool, 20% of our youth are now overweight with obesity rates, which means every 100 kids, there are 20 kids are overweight. Also, in “Childhood Obesity Trends” from The State of Obesity, there are survey years which show the trends in obesity prevalence of youths aged 2 to 19 years in the United States from 1999 through 2016. In 1999, there is only 13.9% having obesity but in 2016, the number is up to 18.5%. Those are not big numbers but the childhood obesity epidemic is a serious public health problem because this is likely an important age for the development of children’s food habits. When they are becoming adults, it can cause diabetes, cardiovascular disease, some forms of cancer and it can increase morbidity, even mortality. What’s more, from age 8 to 18, besides sleeping, children spend more time on their computer, television, and game screens than on other activity in their lives (APA). It literally shows that Do 7 they will easily get overweight and obesity if they keep doing it. The later making changes children’s lifestyle in regards to physical activity and nutritious, the harder it is. In conclusion, as people see, fast food, a one hundred and ten billion dollar industry, know exactly making advertising is the easiest method to get profit.

According to the above paragraphs, people focus on making advertising to target on kids because, at their age, kids are still not really know how to distinguish between what they want and what they need. Unlike children, adults have already known what is good and what they want to buy, so it will be harder to attract them by advertising. Therefore, children are the best target for advertising. Thus, fast food is not good for kids because of being one of the agents for obesity. In order to create a better environment for the later generations, the industry leaders should pay more special attention to advertising seen. Fast food advertising has already been linked to rising obesity rates, which is the most widespread health problem nowadays. As a result, if their parents do not show them how to use social media wisely, they will be controlled by the media. Although parents especially food industry leaders would face many difficulties in teaching their kids to use the media rightly, the healthy future of our kids is more important than anything else. Starting now is better than doing nothing. Small efforts do not show changes immediately but someday our kids would witness our efforts now.

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How are Fast Food Advertising and Childhood Obesity Related. (2020, Jan 02). Retrieved from