Young children who spend a lot of time online or watching commercial television are much more likely to be obese and ask their parents to buy them junk food, a new survey has found.

Children who use the internet for more than half an hour a day are almost twice as likely as those who do not, to pester their parents for chocolate, crisps, sugary drinks and takeaways, according to research by Cancer Research UK.

Primary school aged children who spend more than three hours a day online are more likely to spend their pocket money on such products than those who are online for less than 30 minutes.

The same heavy users of the internet are also 79% more likely to be overweight or obese while children who surfed the web for between half an hour and three hours were 53% more likely to be overweight.

The findings, from CRUK’s cancer policy research centre and academics from Liverpool University are based on a survey of almost 2,500 children aged between seven and 11 and their parents about food intake and viewing habits.

Children are typically online for 16 hours a week. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

“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,” said Emma Boyland, a lead researcher from Liverpool University.

Overall, children are typically online for 16 hours a week and spend 22 hours a week watching television. Children who watch the most commercial TV are most likely to want their parents to buy them food they have seen advertised, with every extra hour of TV increasing the chances of that happening.

“Children see as many as nine junk food adverts during one 30-minute episode of their favourite TV shows, so it’s not surprising this leads them to pester for, buy and eat more unhealthy foods”, said Caroline Cerny of the Obesity Health Alliance, a group of medical bodies and health charities.

Ministers recently published plans to tackle the growing childhood obesity epidemic by ending “buy one get one free” offers on sweet treats, banning junk food ads before the 9pm watershed and other measures. They have pledged to halve childhood obesity by 2030.

Originally Published by The Guardian, continue reading here.

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