Children and young people: food and food marketing
Children and young people: food and food marketing

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Children and young people: food and food marketing

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’ (GOV.UK, 2020 [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] ) 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.

Download this video clip.Video player: ee808_phone_is_a_junk_marketer.mp4
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Where do kids see junk food marketing online? Let's find out. Young Oscar's got a message from Danny. It's a link to a new music video! But when he clicks on it, he's first got to watch this junk food advert, which asks him to upload a picture of himself holding the new burger.


Finally, he gets to watch the video.


Then he's invited to like the band on social media.



Their social media page has a sponsored post for chocolate-- a fun game where you can win a month's supply of chocolate.


And the more chocolate you collect, the higher your score. There are some laws against marketing junk food to children and young people on the telly, but those laws don't apply online. To find out more about who's feeding your kids online, head to OpenLearn, the home of free learning, from the Open University.
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