Unhealthy food portayed positively on kid’s TV

Unhealthy food and drinks are prevalent and often portrayed positively in kid’s programming in Ireland and the UK according to new research.

Although statutory legislation to reduce children’s exposure to high sugar and fatty food and drinks in TV adverts has recently been approved in Ireland, the regulations are not applicable to programme content.

Researchers from the Graduate Entry Medical School at the University of Limerick (UL) found that sweet snacks were the most common food cues used in kid’s programming.

Unhealthy foods were portrayed in almost half of cases, while sugary drinks appeared in a quarter of cases. Most food cues involved major characters in the programmes - of which, nearly all were considered ‘goodies’.

Tea and coffee were the most common drinks cues and the most common circumstances associated with each cue were celebratory or social events (25.2%) and hunger/thirst (25%). Only 2% of cues were related to health.

Professor of Paediatrics at UL, Clodagh O’Gorman, said portrayals of eating and drinking scenarios in kid’s TV programming needs to be geared more towards nutritious foods.

“While there is a clear link between exposure to advertising of unhealthy foods and their consumption in young children, the impact of unhealthy food/drink content in TV programmes aimed at children, is not clear.

“Eating and drinking are common activities within children specific programming with unhealthy foods and beverages especially common and frequently associated with positive motivating factors, and seldom seen with negative outcomes. This is something that parents, policy makers and physicians should be aware of, and this should be balanced by more frequent and positive portrayals of healthy foods and behaviours.”

Co-author and Director of Research at the Medical School, Professor Colum Dunne, said: “Over 90% of characters were not overweight, despite consuming unhealthy products. This is not a helpful or accurate portrayal of current Irish or UK populations, where overweight and obesity are prevalent and increasingly problematic.”

The paper ‘Food and beverage cues in UK and Irish children - television programming'  was published in the 'Archives of Disease in Childhood' journal.

Read it HERE .


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