Young children who spent more than half an hour a day online are almost twice as likely to pester their parents for junk food. The findings are from a Cancer Research UK report published 17 October 2018.
The study examined the associations between diet and advertising of junk food on TV and the internet. It questioned children and their parents in the North West and across the UK.
Teams from the University of Liverpool and Cancer Research UK’s Cancer Policy Research Centre conducted the research. They asked almost 2,500 seven to 11-year-olds and their parents around the UK about their eating habits and how much screen time they had, outside of doing homework.
Primary school children who spent more than three hours on the web were more than four times likely to spend their pocket money on chocolate, crisps, sugary drinks and takeaways than their peers who browsed for less than half an hour.
These children were also 79% more likely to be overweight or obese while those who were online between 30 minutes and three hours a day were 53% more likely to be carrying excess weight than those who were online for less.
In the North West, 36%***of primary school children (aged 10 – 11 years old) are overweight or obese. Children who are obese are five times more likely to remain obese into adulthood.
In the North West, 62%****adults are overweight or obese. Being overweight or obese as an adult increases the risk of 13 different types of cancer.
Dr Emma Boyland, a lead researcher from the University of Liverpool, said: “Our research shows that this behaviour can be linked to the amount of time children spend in front of a screen and as a result, the increased number of enticing adverts they see for these sorts of products.”
The study found that, on average, children were online for 16 hours a week – not including time spent for homework – and watched 22 hours of television per week.
The amount of exercise done by the children had no impact on the results, showing that for this research, excess weight wasn’t linked with being inactive.
Dr Jyotsna Vohra, from Cancer Research UK head of cancer policy research, said: “Obesity is the biggest preventable cause of cancer in the UK after smoking so it’s vital we see a 9pm watershed on junk food adverts on TV and similar protection for children viewing adverts on-demand and online.”