The love/hate relationship that Americans have with fast food kids meals seems to be taking another turn.

Long portrayed as a key contributor to childhood obesity, fast-food kids meals may be losing their appeal to youngsters — and, more importantly, their parents. The emergence of dollar menus among restaurants have given price-conscious parents a powerful incentive to choose an a la carte burger or fries rather than ponying up nearly $4 for a kids meal.

Overall sales of the meals has been tapering off for the last five years - but has recently seen a dramatic drop.

According to the NPD Group, visits to fast-food restaurants in which kids meals were purchased have declined every year since 2007, falling 5 percent in 2011 from the prior year.

"I don't know if there's a silver bullet here, or a smoking gun that would indicate" why it's happening, said a McDonald's franchisee. "I think there's a combination of factors at play."

Experts say that those factors probably include both the stagnant economy and the tech-savvy children that we're raising.  They also point out that just like adults, children's palates have grown.

"Kids are curious and may share items with their parents, or they still stick to their favorite Happy Meal," she said, adding that "Family visits to McDonald's remain strong and slightly higher than the rest of the industry."

Kids meals declining at fast-food giants - Chicago Tribune.