Youngsters who spend more than half an hour a day online are almost twice as likely to pester their parents for junk food because of a bombardment of adverts for products such as crisps and sweets, according to a new report by Cancer Research UK.
It also found primary school children who spend more than three hours on the web were more than four times more likely to spend their pocket money on chocolate, sugary drinks and takeaways than those who browse for less than half an hour a day.
The study found the biggest online users were 79% more likely to be overweight or obese while those who were online between 30 minutes and three hours a day were 53% more likely to be carrying excess weight than those who were online for less time.
Teams from the University of Liverpool and Cancer Research UK’s Cancer Policy Research Centre asked almost 2,500 seven to 11-year-olds and their parents about their eating habits and how much screen time they had, outside of doing homework.
Researchers 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 wasn’t linked with being sedentary, it said.
Each additional hour of commercial TV that children watched was linked with an increased likelihood of pestering their parents to buy products they’d seen advertised.
“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 Dr Emma Boyland, lead researcher. “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.”