Overweight children need help coping with food advertising

A new Austrian study suggests that overweight children may need more help thinking critically about food advertisements. Otherwise, they stand to be influenced by these ads more than normal-weight children.

Researchers found that weight, dietary habits, body shape perception and self-esteem can all contribute to how kids handle food advertising.

"The ability to recognize, evaluate and understand advertising is one of the most important skills in the development of children into informed and competent consumers," a press release on the study stated. 

Recent studies have suggested that the age a child is when he or she views this advertising impacts this process differently. 

Overweight kids at risk

For the study, researchers interviewed 249 kids at three Austrian primary schools. The children were between the ages of 7 and 11. The team found that a critical attitude toward food was found more often in children who weren't overweight or obese.

"In order to prevent cognitive dissonance, children who tend to prefer unhealthy food are at risk of developing a less skeptical attitude towards the food they see advertised," said Ralf Terlutter, study author.

Additionally, "advertising literacy" was also affected by body shape perception and self-esteem of the children.

Special training needed?

The authors concluded that overweight or obese children could benefit from extra "training" to help them increase their critical thinking skills when it comes to advertising. Parents also play an important role: The study found that parents' own attitudes toward food had a significant impact on the children's thoughts and beliefs.

The statement concluded, "Of course, parents act as role models not only in relation to nutrition, but also for 'advertising literacy,' the development of which they can guide to a significant extent."

Results of the study were published in the International Journal of Advertising.

Source: Science Daily

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