Children’s cartoons – adding to the obesity crisis?
A recent report conducted at Colorado State University investigated whether cartoon characters are causing children to consume more food. The study analysed the effect of stereotype exposure on around 300 students split into 3 groups of 8, 12 and 13 year-olds. Researchers found that children consumed twice as much high-calorie food, like cookies and sweets after observing certain larger cartoon characters such as Peppa Pig or Homer Simpson. The effect of the overweight stereotype remained when overweight and healthy weight characters appeared simultaneously. Furthermore, the researchers found that children view ovoid shaped characters as obese, even though these characters are imaginary, and are therefore more likely to consume unhealthy foods afterwards.
Whilst this has shown that marketers need to be careful how they use characters in selling food to children, another idea that the study has brought to attention is that reinforcing healthy thinking and information in children’s cartoon characters may be an effective way to curb obesity.