It’s no secret that companies have been marketing to children for a long time. Television commercials, billboards and magazine print ads have long promoted unhealthy food and beverage choices for our children, making it hard to keep a lifestyle on track.
In fact, did you know that children view four to five food and beverage ads per hour. When you consider children watch on average two hours of television a day – the number of food and beverage ads viewed by our children adds up.
How are children and youth vulnerable to marketing?
Children believe what they see, especially at the younger ages. I’m going to warn you in advance that the following stats are a bit staggering.
• Before the age of five, most children can’t tell the difference between and ad and a television show. Marketers are getting smarter and making the commercials look more like tv shows.
• Before the age of eight, children are unlikely to know the reasons behind marketing.
• By the age of ten to twelve, children know that ads sell products, but they are often unable to judge an ad. Of all forms of marketing, youth in particular are vulnerable to digital marketing. It is viewed as entertainment, grabbing their focus and attention.
• Healthy habits start in childhood. Children learn about nutrition through the marketing of food and beverages. Unhealthy eating over the course of time is linked to multiple diseases such as heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes and stroke.
• Marketing influences foods that children eat and that they ask their parents to buy. Marketing can influence kids to eat unhealthy foods. It also makes unhealthy foods seem “normal.”
When you add in the fact that a lot of our kids are watching YouTube on their iPads and computers nowadays, there is more reason than ever to be worried about the type of marketing they are being fed. Understanding that the state of marketing to our children is clearly a problem that needs to be looked at, here is what is being done in Canada and around the globe to help.
• The Canadian Federal government has committed to “introducing new restrictions on the commercial marketing of unhealthy food and beverages”.* Work has begun on improving food labels, reducing salt and eliminating trans-fats.
• Senator Nancy Greene Raine presented an Act to prohibit direct food and beverage marketing to children 13 and under. Specific instruction on labelling, packaging and advertising directed at children would also apply.
• Quebec is the only province to have banned commercial advertisement directed at children under 13. Results show that Quebec is the highest consumer of fruits and vegetables and has the lowest obesity rates for six to eleven year olds since making this change. Experts note that Quebec “has reduced fast food consumption by $88 million a year.”
Around the world…
• In 1991, Sweden banned ads to children 12 and under and banned mail ads for children younger than 16.
• In 1992, Norway banned television ads for children under 16 and banned all ads that could be seen to exploit the vulnerabilities of children.
• In the UK in 2006, ads for products high in fat, sugar and salt found in television shows for children ages four to 15 were banned.
• In 2011, the Spanish Parliament approved a law on Nutrition and Food Safety, which stated that kindergartens and schools should be free from advertising.
• In 2014, Brazil determined all ads directed at children under 12 to be “abusive”.
• In 2014, Mexico restricted television marketing to children and in movie theaters during the afternoon and weekends.
In short, the world is starting to take notice and has been taking steps to help protect our children from the marketing of unhealthy food and beverages. Now it’s your turn to share your thoughts on the subject.
What Can You Do To Help? Have Your Say!
Ottawa Public Health wants your opinion about marketing of food and beverages to children and youth. Complete this brief online survey to tell them what you think.
To be eligible, you need to be 16 years of age or older and live in the City of Ottawa. By completing the survey, you will help them better understand what people in the City of Ottawa think about marketing to children and youth. They are also accepting written briefs or submissions by email or mail. Please send your written response to: firstname.lastname@example.org or contact name 100 Constellation drive, ON K2G 6K8.
*Disclosure: I was compensated for my participation in this program*