On average, the children reported spending more than 22 hours of screen time each week - about 10 of which was spent watching television. The remainder of the time was mostly spent playing video games online or on home video game machines, both of which incorporate increasing amounts of advertising targeted to children.
The children fessed up to about one request each week for toys and two requests every three weeks for food or drinks. These numbers are similar to those reported in other studies.
More than 300 of these children from six of the schools also answered the same questions seven, 12 and 20 months after the initial assessment. The researchers found that those who watched more entertainment than their peers at the beginning of the study wanted more stuff nearly two years later - to the tune of one extra toy request every three to four months and one extra food or beverage request every three to six months for every additional hour of screen time daily. Although this may not seem like a large increase, it's statistically significant for snacks, and maddening to their verbal targets - Mom and Dad.
"Our result demonstrates that television and other screen media are true 'risk factors' for future requests for food and drinks," the researchers conclude, "regardless of a child's gender, ethnicity, economic standing or language." Chamberlain and other researchers are particularly concerned about the fact that kid-targeted advertising frequently promotes high-calorie, nutritionally poor choices. Legislators interested in obesity prevention in children would do well to turn their attention to the forces that drive kids to make unhealthy decisions, they said.