Junk food advertisers spend billions of dollars every year on advertising aimed at children. These foods are known to be major contributors to the obesity epidemic, a growing problem around the world. Food advertising should be regulated to exclude advertisements that appeal to those under twelve as these children do not have fully developed cognitive defenses. This paper investigates the effects of cartoon characters, packaging, and branding in television advertisements on childhood obesity by analyzing various pieces of literature related to obesity, cognitive defenses, home environments, and advertisements. Advertising and branding overcome children’s cognitive defenses and thus negatively influence childhood obesity and the adiposity levels of children. There are many factors that determine the cognitive defense level of the children including the food environment created by the family, family situation, and modeled behavior. Children respond to advertisements differently than adults and are more susceptible to food branding and advertisements due to their low level of cognitive defense. Children’s cognitive defenses are not fully developed, even at the ages of seven or eight, and thus they cannot evaluate advertisements like adults can. Children create food brand bonds at incredibly early ages and are drawn in for life, creating a cycle of bonding that is hard to break. Various factors influence children’s defenses and response to advertisements including the effects of food environments created by parents on food behaviors. Overweight children may also have lower cognitive defenses than children at a healthy weight level and are thus more vulnerable to the advertising and branding targeted at them. Parents may not be aware of the effects their behaviors have on their children’s eating habits and often do not discuss critical thinking with their children. Advertisements aimed at children take advantage of these low levels of cognitive defense and the factors that lead to these low levels of cognitive defenses and should thus be regulated.
Current Academic Year
Mary C. Boyes
Virginia Commonwealth University. Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program
Is Part Of
VCU Undergraduate Research Posters
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