Does Children's Screen Time Predict Requests for Advertised Products? Cross-Sectional and Prospective Analyses

Objective: To examine children's screen media exposure and requests for advertised toys and food/drinks.

Design: Prospective cohort study.

Setting: Twelve elementary schools in northern California.

Participants: Eight hundred twenty-seven third grade children participated at baseline; 386 students in 6 schools were followed up for 20 months.

Intervention: None.

Main Outcome Measures: Child self-reported requests for advertised toys and foods/drinks.

ResultsAt baseline, children's screen media time was significantly associated with concurrent requests for advertised toys (Spearman r = 0.15 [TV viewing] and r = 0.20 [total screen time]; both P.001) and foods/drinks (Spearman r = 0.16 [TV viewing] and r = 0.18 [total screen time]; both P.001). In prospective analysis, children's screen media time at baseline was significantly associated with their mean number of toy requests 7 to 20 months later (Spearman r = 0.21 [TV viewing] and r = 0.24 [total screen time]; both P.001) and foods/drinks requests (Spearman r = 0.14 [TV viewing] and r = 0.16 [total screen time]; both P.01). After adjusting for baseline requests and sociodemographic variables, the relationship between screen media exposure and future requests for advertised foods/drinks remained significant for total TV viewing and total screen media exposure. The relationship with future requests for toys remained significant for total screen media exposure.

Conclusions: Screen media exposure is a prospective risk factor for children's requests for advertised products. Future experimental studies on children's health- and consumer-related outcomes are warranted.