TV characters who promote unhealthy food habits by showing them in a positive light are setting a bad example for kids in real life, a new study reveals.
The researchers established that statutory legislation to curb children's exposure to high sugar and fat in food/drink in TV adverts was introduced in the UK in 2007, and similar regulations have recently come on stream in Ireland, however these weren't applied to programme content.
Unhealthy foods accounted for almost half of food cues were 47.5 percent, where food was consumed on children's programmes shown on RTE and BBC, while sugary drinks made up 25 percent of drinks cues.
In 95 percent of the major character portrayals, it was the "goodies" that were consuming junk food, while over 90 percent of the characters were not overweight and just under 40 percent of the content came from the USA.
The most common motivating factors associated with each cue were celebratory or social was 25.2 percent and hunger/thirst was 25 percent and only 2 percent of cues was related to health.
Subsequently, the researchers suggested that parents, policy makers, and physicians should be aware that this type of content should be balanced by more frequent and positive portrayals of healthy foods and behaviours.
The research is published online in Archives of Disease in Childhood.