Preschoolers Who Are Aware of Fast Food Toy Premiums Eat Fast Food More Often
Researchers of an Appetite study examined whether young children’s (3-5 y/o) knowledge of fast food toy premiums is related to their fast food consumption. Their findings show that children who have a better knowledge of what toys are being offered at popular fast food restaurants, are more likely to eat fast food at McDonald’s.
- Young children (3- to 5-year olds) who are more familiar with the toy premiums fast food restaurants give away with their kids’ meals, more frequently eat fast food at McDonald’s, but not at other fast food restaurants, such as Burger King, Wendy’s and Subway.
- This may be due to the fact that McDonald’s uses a greater amount of advertising to target children.
- For parents and policy makers it is important to be aware of the power of fast food toy premiums and the way it may influence children to consume fast food.
Is young children’s (3- to 5-year olds) knowledge of fast food toy premiums linked to their fast food consumption?
583 parents of 3- to 5-year olds (73% of the children were white and 27% of the children had other ethnical backgrounds, mostly Hispanic; 48% of the parents did not receive any education beyond high school).
Parents of preschoolers were approached in the waiting rooms of pediatric and Women, Infants, and Children clinics (in two metropolitan regions) and invited to complete a survey, among other things about children's food choices. To determine children's knowledge of fast food toy premiums, the researchers asked parents whether their child usually knew what toys are being offered at fast food restaurants. Parents also indicated whether their child had eaten at any of four restaurants that offer toy premiums with kids' meals (McDonald's, Burger King, Subway, and Wendy's) in the past 7 days. Parents' own fast food consumption and their ideas about how children find out about the premium toys were assessed as well.
Facts and findings
- Young children’s knowledge of fast food toy premiums was linked to their fast food consumption: Children who usually know what toys are being offered at fast food restaurants, more often visited McDonald's during the 7 days preceding the survey.
- Children’s age or the socioeconomic status of their parents played no role in how often children ate at McDonald’s.
- Young children’s knowledge of fast food toy premiums was not linked to the frequency of eating at other fast food restaurants, such as Burger King, Wendy’s and Subway.
- According to the researchers, this could be explained by the amount of advertising the fast food restaurants use to target children: McDonald’s had substantially more child-targeted advertising during the survey period than Burger King, Wendy’s and Subway.
- Interesting fact: Approximately one out of six (16%) parents reported that their child usually knew what toys were being offered by the fast food restaurants. Additionally, parents reported that TV advertisements (50%) and signs outside of restaurants (43%) were the most common ways children found out about the premium toys.
- Critical note: This study does not allow for any conclusions about cause (knowledge of toy premiums) and effect (visits to fast food restaurant). The results only show that young children’s knowledge of fast food toy premiums is associated with their fast food consumption (frequency of eating at McDonald’s) and cannot say anything about what causes what.