Objective: To assess parents’ concern regarding television food advertising to children and the marketing methods used, their awareness of existing regulations and support for strengthening restrictions, and to determine whether these factors differ across sociodemographic groups.
Methods: A randomly selected sample of 400 parents of children under 14 years in all Australian States and Territories completed the cross-sectional telephone survey in March 2007. Data were weighted by metropolitan and regional population proportions.
Results: Parents were concerned about unhealthy food advertising to children (67.3%), use of popular personalities (67.7%), toys (76.4%), and advertising volume (79.7%). Older parents, of high socioeconomic status (SES), with fewer household televisions were more likely to be concerned. Only 47.4% of parents were aware of current regulations and those with a tertiary education were more likely to be aware: odds ratio (OR) 2.96 (95% CI: 1.55-5.65). Parents supported a change from self-regulation (92.8%), a ban on unhealthy food advertising to children (86.8%) and, to a lesser extent, a ban on all food advertising (37.3%).
Conclusions and implications: There was widespread parental concern about food advertising and strong support for tighter restrictions. Given that the existing regulations rely on complaints and awareness is low, particularly among parents with lower education levels, a system of external monitoring and enforcement is essential. Clearly more effective regulations are needed to protect children and parental support for this is high.