relative importance of food and beverage marketing, as compared to other factors in children’s lives, to diet-related health.

Separating Mechanisms
  • Marketing compared to media use There is now evidence that reducing television, video games, and video watching reduces BMI. If marketing has an influence, then reducing television viewing should have more of an influence than reducing video game playing or video watching, as the latter involve less marketing and often no marketing of foods and beverages. More research is needed on teasing apart effects from just participating in media and effects from the marketing occurring in that media.

  • Snacking and marketing There is some evidence that snacking while watching television may play a role in obesity. Detailed observational and experimental research should study this phenomenon. For example, is snacking stimulated by food advertising or depictions of eating and drinking during television programming? Do people consume more while watching television because they are distracted from monitoring internal satiety signals? Or does engagement in other kinds of activities than television viewing distract people from internal hunger signals?

  • Parents of young children Food preferences and eating habits are to a substantial extent established in early childhood. Research is needed on parents’ knowledge of healthful nutrition for children and on feeding practices during infancy and the preschool years. A special focus should be put on first-time parents and the degree to which their feeding practices are shaped by food and beverage marketing.

  • Persuasive intent Children’s understanding of the persuasive intent of television advertising has been suggested as a likely moderator of effects, but no systematic research has yet been pursued to elucidate this relationship. Such investigation is warranted to better understand whether the developing child’s ability to comprehend the inherent bias and exaggeration of advertising is important in helping children to defend more effectively against commercial persuasion. Given the migration of child-directed food and beverage to other forms of marketing across a diverse range of new media and advertising contexts, it may be equally valuable to investigate the possible moderating effect of persuasive intent attribution in media contexts other than television. Such evidence may be particularly important because many of these new forms of marketing are less transparent and regulated than is television advertising. Given the greater blurring of boundaries between commercial and noncommercial content on new media such as the Internet (Chapter 4), the age of effective comprehension of persuasive intent of these new forms may be considerably older than that for television advertising.

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