2 A child’s phone as a junk food marketer
Recognising that food marketing influences children and young people’s food preferences and their eating, the UK has introduced rules that try to reduce marketing of junk foods to children and young people. By international standards, these rules are quite strict – yet so far, their impact is still weak. How can that be?
Audits of television advertising after the first regulations were introduced in 2007 have shown that children’s exposure to such advertising actually increased. This was because regulations targeted programmes that were made specifically for children, yet children and young people also view a lot of other programmes – and advertising for junk food increased around these, such as around sports programmes and shows after 6pm.
During the Covid pandemic in 2020, links for Covid outcomes to obesity began to be understood. The UK government announced it would reduce how children are ‘bombarded by advertisements and promotions for food’ () by introducing a 9pm watershed for unhealthy advertising on television – but also online. This is due to be introduced in 2022 and it remains to be seen what kind of impact this will have.
Elsewhere in the world, regulation of unhealthy food promotion in digital media is almost completely absent (see Tackling food marketing to children in a digital world). In a world of overweight and obesity, the opportunity this presents for brands to build relationships with children and promote unhealthy foods is a concern.
So where do kids see junk food marketing online? Find out in the following video.