Exploring parents’ perceptions of television food advertising directed at children: A South Australian study


  • J. Ip, MND, APD, Former Masters Student
    K.P. Mehta, GDND, APD, Lecturer
    J. Coveney, PhD, Associate Professor

K.P. Mehta, Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, Flinders University of South Australia, Bedford Park, Adelaide, SA 5042, Australia. Email: kaye.mehta@flinders.edu.au


Objective:  To increase our understanding of parents’ perceptions of the influence of television food advertising on children’s food choices.

Design:  Five focus group discussions.

Subjects:  Thirty-two parents (24 women and eight men) of children attending primary school.

Setting: Adelaide, South Australia.

Data analyses:  The focus group discussions were taped and transcribed and coded as themes. Transcripts were verified and coding was audited. All researchers met regularly to analyse data and reach consensus on emergent themes (researcher triangulation).

Results:  Parents who participated in the study indicated that television is a powerful source of information for children’s food choices. Parents expressed concern about the negative influence of television food advertising on children’s food preferences. They suggested that the current regulations governing television food advertising were not adequately enforced. Parents wanted to see an overall reduction in the volume of food advertisements directed at children, and an increase in advertisements promoting healthy foods. Parents expressed mixed views about banning food advertisements directed at children.

Conclusion:  In order for television food advertising to be health-enhancing for children, parents in the study suggested the need for restrictions on advertising practices, tighter enforcement of existing regulations and an increase in healthy food advertisements. The present research shows that parents want to see changes in the current arrangements governing television food advertising to children.