Marketing and Childhood Obesity
Food marketing to children is an area of growing concern because the food and beverage industry spends billions of dollars per year marketing to children. Nearly all of the food advertisements viewed by children are for products that are high in fat, sugar or sodium. Research shows that marketing influences what children eat and drink and links the marketing of unhealthy products to overweight and obesity. Have you ever wondered why your child asks you to buy certain products over other ones? Most likely they have been exposed to marketing for that product. These food companies are very good at marketing to your child and have been doing it successfully for many years. Food marketing is everywhere. It’s powerful, and it’s effective. It’s particularly effective for children and teens, who are a much more vulnerable audience. Based on an extensive review of the research, the American Psychological Association concluded that until the age of about 8 years old children are unable to understand the persuasive intent of advertisements.
What can parents do??
Talk with your kids. One of the most important things we can do with our children is to talk to them about food marketing and what marketers are trying to do when they advertise. Help kids to see what it means to market a product and how to recognize when it is happening.
At school. Assess your child’s school and look for any product marketing. Marketers see schools as an opportunity to get easy access to children and a captive audience. Talk to the principal or parent’s group about eliminating marketing, selling or giving away unhealthy foods or brands anywhere on school campuses.
At home. Work to limit the amount of junk food that you are buying and encourage your child to be physical activity. Don’t always give in to requests for advertised products. Limit screen time and explain to children that companies are trying to convince them that they have to have these products, even when they’re not good for them.
Marketing to children has changed dramatically over the years. Today, marketing to children is seamless, sophisticated and often interactive. The line between ads and children’s entertainment has blurred, with marketing messages being inserted into the places that children play and learn. It is important for parents to be aware of this process and understand the impact it can have on children and their health.