Here's more proof that the media influences children—and not always in a good way: A new first-of-its-kind study found that kids are actually more likely to consume unhealthy foods after viewing pudgy, "egg-shaped" cartoon characters.
Even though these characters are completely imaginary, kids still attributed human body norms to character's body shapes, the researchers found. After watching a cartoon with a plump character, it was found that children were almost twice as likely to consume high-calorie, indulgent foods when compared to children who viewed healthier looking characters or no characters at all.
Researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder collected data from approximately 300 children, broken up into three groups by age—averaging 8, 12, and 13 years old.
But don't switch off your kids' cartoon programs just yet! The study also found that even when a child viewed an overweight cartoon character, if they were reminded about healthy eating habits before digging into cookies and candy, they made more healthful choices.
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"Kids don't necessarily draw upon previous knowledge when they're making decisions," lead author Margaret C. Campbell said in a press release. "But perhaps if we're able to help trigger their health knowledge with a quiz just as they're about to select lunch at school, for instance, they'll choose the more nutritious foods."
Caitlin St John is an Editorial Assistant for Parents.com who splits her time between New York City and her hometown on Long Island. Follow her on Twitter: @CAITYstjohn.
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Image: Boys watching cartoons via Shutterstock