The Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity released a 40-page report about childhood obesity and how parents view their role in the process. The report titled “Food marketing to children and adolescents: What do parents think?” is based on a survey of 2,454 parents with
children ages 2-17 living at home in June-July of 2009, 2010, and 2011.
Some interesting thoughts in the report:
The surveyed parents ranked the food and beverage categories marketed most often to their children fairly accurately. Fast food restaurants, cereal, and soda/pop were at the top of their lists, while milk and fruits and vegetables were at the bottom. However, parents tended to underestimate the frequency of their children’s exposure to some highly advertised categories, such as other (i.e., not fast food) restaurants. They also overestimated the number of ads their children saw for the healthiest categories.
Parents were as concerned about junk food marketing to children as they were about alcohol and tobacco use in the media. The surveyed parents were highly aware of the “pester power” of food marketing and its effects on their children’s food preferences. They were less likely to agree that food marketing affects their children’s diet or the products they buy. Parents believed that TV commercials, in-store promotions, and cartoon characters on packages had the most impact on their children’s eating habits.
Surveyed parents perceived a number of environmental obstacles to ensuring healthy eating habits for their children, including the expense of healthy foods, easy access to unhealthy foods, unhealthy food advertising, and children’s media usage. In addition, 69% rated the media as a negative influence on their children’s eating habits, followed by the food industry (61%), and the government (55%). However, they attributed 60% of the cause of increased childhood obesity to personal responsibility and 40% to the unhealthy food environment.