It turns out that all those kids commericials see appear to make a difference. Lisa J. Chamberlain and other researchers at the Stanford School of Medicine found that, the more kids watch TV or play video games, the more likely they are to ask an adult to buy them something. They report their findings in their article, “Does Children’s Screen Time Predict Requests for Advertised Products,” which appears in the April issue of the journal Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine (160:363-368).

Their research was based on a survey of 800 third-graders at 12 elementary schools in northern California. They found kids averaged over 22 hours of “screen time” per week (10 of which was watching TV). How significant was that impact? They found that:

For every extra hour per day that children watched television at the beginning of the study, they made on average one extra request for an advertised food or drink every six to 13 weeks at the end of the study, seven to 20 weeks later. Likewise, every extra hour of total screen time resulted in approximately one additional request for advertised food or drink every 13 to 24 weeks and one extra request for an advertised toy every 12 to 18 weeks.

In other words, they found that kids toy requests and food/drink requests were shaped by their levels of media exposure and that this exposure has long lasting effects (still shaping response patterns up to 20 months later).

There is cause for concern due to high levels of media exposure. As one report on this study indicates, “The average American child will see more than 40,000 television commercials every year, as well as product placements on TV and in other forms of media, according to background information in the article.”

One of the concerns regarding kids and advertising is the question of undue influence advertisers might have. In another report on the study, Thomas Robinson, one of the researchers is quoted as saying, “Kids are an easy target for advertisers. . . . Younger children aren’t even able to understand that ads, which are now cropping up in video games and movies,online and even in cell phones, are intended to sell them things. Marketers need to be part of the solution for the obesity epidemic by helping parents, not making it harder for them.”