a1 Centre for Health Initiatives, University of Wollongong, Room 41.G04, Wollongong, NSW 2522, Australia
a2 Faculty of Education, University of Wollongong, Wollongong, NSW, Australia
Objective The present study sought to determine the feasibility of an experimental research design to investigate the effects of exposure to magazine advertising on children's food choices.
Design Children were randomized to read either a magazine with food advertisements or a magazine with no food advertisements. They then chose two food items from the intervention ‘store’ to eat after the session. Data were also collected on attitudes to advertising and snack food preferences. Finally, participants’ parents were provided with a self-completion survey on food choices and other variables (n 24).
Setting Three vacation care centres in regional New South Wales, Australia.
Subjects Children aged 5–12 years (n 47).
Results Children in the experimental condition were more likely to choose advertised foods than those in the control group. Interestingly, the majority reported taste and healthiness as the most important factors in snack food choices; however, when faced with the actual food choice, they predominantly chose unhealthy foods (eighty-two unhealthy and only twelve healthy items were chosen).
Conclusions This was the first study to assess the effects on children of exposure to food advertising within the context of reading a child-targeted magazine. Importantly, even with the small sample size and venue limitations, we found that exposure to magazine advertising influenced food choices. Children's magazines are an under-researched and poorly regulated medium, with considerable potential to influence children's food choices. The present study shows that the methodology is feasible, and future studies could replicate this with larger samples.
(Received April 01 2010)
(Accepted September 23 2010)
(Online publication December 08 2010)