A new study has revealed that a child's food choices waver depending on the computer games he or she plays. Online games significantly influence kids' food choices whether toward healthy snacks or unhealthy products.
Advergames-online computer games developed specifically to promote a brand, often featuring logos and characters-are present on many food and beverage Web sites.
Tiffany A. Pempek, Ph.D., and Sandra L. Calvert, Ph.D., of Georgetown University, Washington, D.C., conducted a study involving 30 low-income, African American children age 9 to 10 years.
One group played a game, based on Pac-Man that rewarded them for having their computer character choose bananas, orange juice and other healthy foods and beverages.
A second group played a different version of the same game that instead rewarded consumption of soda, candy bars, cookies and bags of potato chips.
These two groups were instructed to select a snack from among options featured in the game after playing, whereas a third, control group selected a snack and beverage before playing the healthy version of the game. The children reported liking both versions of the game and played for an average of 9 minutes and 32 seconds.
Children who played the healthy version before selecting a snack were significantly more likely than those playing the unhealthy version to choose a banana and orange juice instead of soda and potato chips.
"With only 10 minutes of exposure, our results revealed that children selected and ate whatever snacks were being marketed by the advergame, healthy or not," the authors said.
The findings suggest that online games could be used to promote nutritious foods.
The study has been published in the July issue of Archives of Paediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.