Preschool children ages 2 to through 5 continue to view TV ads for foods and beverages daily, revealing a loophole in major food companies’ pledges that they will not direct any advertising to children under 6, according to a new study by the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at the University of Connecticut.
At a minimum, food companies should not advertise during programming where children under age 6 are likely to see their ads, regardless of whether older children are also watching. — Jennifer Harris
The study, published in the journal Appetite, also showed that, although companies say they are directing their ads toward older children, the advertisements appeal to children under 6 as much as they appeal to those aged 6 to 11. In addition, preschoolers were less likely to have tried the advertised products before seeing the ads, and this – as research has shown – makes them more susceptible to the influence of these ads.
“Our new research findings demonstrate that preschool-age children frequently view TV food ads and are likely highly influenced by ads that food and beverage companies have pledged to protect them from,” says the study’s lead author, Jennifer Harris, associate professor of allied health sciences in the College of Agriculture, Health, and Natural Resources, and director of marketing initiatives at the Rudd Center.
Child development experts have concluded that advertising to children under 6 is unfair, as they do not have the cognitive ability to distinguish advertising from other types of information and thus cannot counteract its influence. As a result, they recommend that preschool-age children should be protected from advertising in any form.
In response to these concerns, major food companies participating in the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI) industry self-regulation program, implemented in 2006, have pledged not to direct advertising for any of their products to children under 6. However, young children still see ads from these companies …