Childhood obesity is a global health problem. Children eat more junk foods and snacks that are cheaper and readily available in schools than healthy snacks. Today fast food lures more consumers at younger & younger ages. Fast food giants spend billions on marketing and advertising targeted at children. Most of the fast foods are empty calories and low in nutritional value. Children are more vulnerable, less able to see through advertisements targeting them.
Junk Food Advertising Effect Children
Research shows that marketing targeted at children at an early age influenced their food choices, food preferences and eating habits. This is a serious issue as the majority of these marketing activities are for foods that are high in calories, fat, sugar and/or sodium. Unfortunately, research has found strong ties between rises in advertising for non-nutritious foods and rates of childhood obesity.
How Marketers Grab Children's Attention
- Advertisement during children's shows- an average of 12-21 television commercials for food products.
- Popular cartoon characters
- Celebrity Endorsements
- A Theme of popular cartoon shows.
Television Ads Contribute to Childhood obesity
Commercials for chocolates and sweet products were telecast the most followed by Health/Energy drinks/ Grain/fruit based products. Most of the products claimed health or nutritional benefit of the respective products. The common claims were Makes Taller & Sharper or More Calcium, More Carbohydrate, High Protein, Low calories, etc.
WHO estimates that about 43 million pre-school children (under 5) are obese. Of these, 35 million children live in developing countries. A recent study by Diabetes Foundation of India (DFI) found that TV commercial has an impact on school children, that they consider eating junk foods fashionable. At least 54% of children surveyed preferred food shown in commercials and 59% said that they will continue to buy such foods.
India has the largest diabetes population in the world, according to WHO 2015.The fast-food industry is mainly targeting its marketing toward children using highly effective marketing technique to promote children to buy again and again, regular consumption and brand loyalty. A ban on advertising alone may not have an impact on children's consumption pattern as they would still have exposure from other channels.
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.
Parents play a vital role in preventing the influence of unhealthy commercials on children that encourage unhealthy food:
- Limit screen time.
- Monitor media exposure.
- Encourage healthy eating habits and promote physical activity.
- Eat with your kids, share mealtimes.
- Make sure you eat healthy foods and engage in physical activity yourself.
- Stay strong in the grocery store. Do not let your kids, and the food advertisers, control your purchases.
Remember, you have the greatest influence on your children's health.
Banning Junk Food Advertisements
Children need to be protected from rampant commercials, and marketing of unhealthy food. But in India, there are no specific advertising laws related to food advertisements targeted at children. Advertisements and promotional offers on Food & Beverage products should also not show excessive consumption (Advertising Standards Council of India).
In the United States and United Kingdom Trade Commissions monitor and penalize advertisers and marketers when the code of conduct is broken.