Young children who spent more than half an hour a day on internet are almost twice as likely to pester their parents for junk food, according to a study published Wednesday. The study, which examines the associations between diet and advertising of junk food on TV and the internet, questioned children and their parents.
Researchers from the University of Liverpool and Cancer Research UK 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.
The results show that primary school children who spent more than three hours on the web were more than four times more 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 per cent more likely to be overweight or obese while those who were online between 30 minutes and three hours a day were 53 per cent more likely to be carrying excess weight than those who were online for less.
"Young children who spend more time on the internet and watching commercial TV are more likely to pester for, buy and eat unhealthy food and drinks," said Emma Boyland, a lead researcher from the University of Liverpool.
"Parents are all too familiar with being nagged for sweets and fizzy drinks in the supermarket or corner shop.
"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," Boyland said.
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 was not linked with being sedentary.
Each additional hour of commercial TV that children watched was linked with an increased likelihood of pestering their parents to buy products they had seen advertised.
They were four times more likely to buy chocolate and over three times more likely to buy sugary drinks if they watched more than three hours of commercial TV everyday compared to youngsters who did not watch as much and 59 per cent more likely to be obese or overweight.