This is a must-watch for any parents, grand-parents, soon-to-be-parents, teachers, daycare providers, and generally anyone who might come in contact with children (i.e. everyone!). I recently came across a great video talking about the marketing aimed at children (and remember that junk food isn’t necessarily just fries and burgers).
Television watching is the favorite pastime in the U.S., and it’s become the favorite in many other parts of the world, too. After work and sleep, TV viewing is the most commonly reported activity in the U.S., taking up just over half of all leisure time. Similarly, in Australia, people spend about half of their free time watching TV, and across several countries in Europe, television takes up about 40 percent of people’s leisure time. In the U.S., people average about five hours of TV time each day, and in a few European countries, TV time rivals or exceeds that of the U.S.
Please take 14 minutes and watch this short video (more detailed info and some helpful suggestions below).
Very cool, Anna Lappé.
What is food marketing?
- Marketing is a process widely used by companies throughout the world to encourage consumption of their products.
- Foods most heavily targeted at children include energy-dense fast foods, carbonated soft drinks, sugary breakfast cereals, salty snacks and baked goods, which tend to be high in fats, sugars and salt, and are nutrient-poor.
- Given the rising rates of obesity, some experts have suggested that the marketing of such foods contributes to an “obesogenic” environment that makes healthy food choices more difficult, especially for children.
Why does food marketing contribute to childhood obesity?
- Children and youth are important to marketers because they influence their parents’ buying decisions, some have their own purchasing power, and they are the adult consumers of the future.
- Every day, children ages 2-17 see, on average, 12-21 TV commercials for food products. That’s 4,400-7,600 commercials a year.
- Many compelling ads target both children and parents. They use popular cartoon characters or celebrities to market the unhealthy, sugary food as, “a great source of fiber,” “a great source of vitamins,” “a great source of whole grains.”
- Food marketing to children and youth has been shown to increase: preference for advertised foods; consumption of advertised foods; overall calorie consumption; and requests to parents to purchase advertised foods (known as “pester power”).
- Young people’s exposure to fast food TV ads has increased. Compared to 2003, in 2009 preschoolers (2-5 years) viewed 21% more fast food ads, children (6-11 years) viewed 34% more, and teens (12-17 years) viewed 39% more.
- Research suggests that low-income and ethnic minority youth, who are at higher risk for obesity, are disproportionately exposed to food advertisements.
Types of food marketing
- Food marketing to children and adolescents is changing very quickly due to the growth of digital technology.
- While television is still the primary format for food advertising to children and teens, today the food industry also markets aggressively via the Internet, through cell phones and text messages, in video and computer games, in movies and subsequent tie-ins with food products, and even in schools.
- The new ways in which food companies reach children makes it difficult for parents to protect children from all the marketing for low-nutrient, calorie-dense products that appeal to kids in fun and interactive ways.
To protect your kids from the current onslaught of food marketing, try this:
• Make your TV time non-commercial. No children should be watching more than two hours of television a day, but when they are watching TV, stick with PBS (or other forms of non-commercial programming) and videos. Rent videos or DVDs from the library, and if there’s a particular TV series your children like, rent it by the season (commercial free) through Netflix.
• Keep children’s bedrooms screen free. It’s much more difficult to monitor what your children are doing online—and any advertisements they’re getting sucked into—when they are locked up in their bedrooms with their computers.
• Monitor food marketing in your schools and community. It’s hard to convince your children that soda is bad when there’s a soda machine at school. Likewise, it can be tough to argue that a local fast-food joint is unhealthy if that same fast-food joint is sponsoring your kid’s soccer team. Talk to other parents or join your school’s PTA so you can work together to keep the influence of food marketers to a minimum.
Parents: Keep junk food out of the house and encourage physical activity. Don’t always give in to your kids’ demands, but explain to them why you’re doing so. If it’s not in your house, no one will be tempted to eat it 🙂
Sources and references:
For more information, check out this report from the Harvard School of Public Health.