Kids Eat Whatever They’re Being Marketed

Our new iPad game, Yum Num’s Galaxy, was mentioned in this roundup of healthy eating games for kids. If you’re a parent, you need to see this AMA article it referenced: Use of Advergames to Promote Consumption of Nutritious Foods and Beverages by Low-Income African American Children. In the study, researchers from Georgetown University used multiple variations of Pac-Man in which the yellow dots were replaced by either nutritious snacks or unhealthy snacks. After the kids got to play, they then had them make snack choices. Here’s their eye-popping result:

With only 10 minutes of exposure, our results revealed that children selected and ate whatever snacks were being marketed by the advergame, healthy or not. In other words, if the game promoted less healthy foods and beverages, snacks of poor nutritional quality were chosen and eaten. By contrast, if the game promoted healthier foods and beverages, snacks of better nutritional quality were chosen and eaten. Our findings advance the current knowledge base about advergames by expanding the literature from a preference for a product marketed by an advergame to actual selections and consumption of foods and beverages marketed in the advergame.

The fast-food industry knows that when they make their own food fun, exciting, and addicting in their ads, kids will naturally want it. This study shows that we can use that tendency to drive kids towards healthier options! “However, as demonstrated by this study, advergames may be used just as easily to promote healthier snacks, an approach recommended by the Institute of Medicine report as a way to help curb the obesity epidemic in the United States.” In your daily decisions as a parent, this study shows that you may be able to use advergames to your advantage, as long as you consider their content and select the right games that guide kids towards good decisions.

With Yum Num’s Galaxy, our goal was to create a fun game with content themed around food that you can prepare out of common ingredients at home. Seen in this context, it’s an advergame for healthy eating! We hope to compete against the presence of fast-food advertising in almost every form of mass-media. We had a hunch that if we made a game that included snacks like celery with peanut butter and raisins (“Ants on a Log”), we’d give kids some healthier options to consider. Seeing studies like this one makes me feel like we made the right choice! Please check out our Yum Num’s Galaxy trailer if you’d like to see it in action!