How Do Fast Food TV Commercials Affect Teens?

Advertisers spend close to $12 billion annually in an attempt to reach children with their products, reports the American Psychological Association 15. Therefore, you can assume that these advertisers receive a return on their investments, since it would not make sense to continue to spend this money if these children were not making or influencing purchases. A high percentage of these advertisements feature fast food, which has increased their consumption among teens and contributed to the country's childhood obesity rates.

Amount of Advertising

Nearly 95 percent of the advertising budgets for fast food organizations in the U.S. goes toward television 4. When factoring in the amount of television that the average child watches, children are exposed to roughly 3 hours of fast food advertising each week, reports the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 24. Of the approximately 20,000 to 40,000 advertisements that children and teens view each year, over half of them are for fast food or other unhealthy food products, reports the University of Michigan Health System 3. These industries purposefully target children and teens with their marketing because they know that they can alter a family's spending habits through this method.

Effect on Spending Habits

When a teen views fast food advertisements in large quantities, it can have an influence on where her parents spend money 4. In any given week, more than 80 percent of parents take their children to a fast food restaurant for at least one meal, notes Yale University's Fast Food FACTS 4.

Nutrition and Obesity

The more that teens eat at fast food restaurants, the less likely they are to have good nutritional habits. Fast food menus do not include many healthy options, as only 17 percent of the items found at these restaurants provide enough nutrition. Another problem comes from the caloric intake associated with a fast food visit, as Fast Food FACTS reports that teens consume from 800 to 1,100 calories each time 4. Although it is not the only reason, fast food has contributed to the 17.6-percent obesity rate among teens in the U.S., notes the APA 4.

Brand Loyalty

Much of the advertising is aimed at building brand loyalty, as fast food companies want to turn child consumers into teen and adult consumers in the future 4. They achieve this by creating fun advertisements that children will remember, rather than providing any real information on the products, suggests the APA.

Rules and Regulations

A number of laws are in place to protect children from advertising, although they are not having their desired effects. In the early 1970s, the Federal Communications Commission limited the amount of advertising shown during children's programming to 12 minutes per hour during the week and 9.5 minutes per hour on weekends. Congress has since passed that law, according to the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, but that does not stop the type of advertising that teens see 2.