Two of the leading causes of childhood obesity are fast food and sugary drinks.
98% of food advertisements viewed by children are for products high in sugar, fat and sodium. Guess who the fast/junk food industry targets? You got it…kids. In 2012 fast food restaurants spent $4.6 billion on advertising to toddlers and youth.
Teens are targets at school where vending machines are filled with potato chips, full-size candy bars, sugary sodas and sports drinks. Vendors like McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, Chick-fil-A and Panda Express populate cafeterias, offering super-sized, super-high fat options. Psychology Today reports that food companies spend almost $150 million each year on marketing in schools.
Schools aren’t the only problem. Food industries know where your kids hang out and what they watch on tv. They know what video games are most popular and what apps are being viewed. Ads for unhealthy food appear on all the major television networks your kids love. A study from the University of Ottawa revealed that three out of four kids are exposed to 111 ads each week on social media alone, including Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and YouTube. Ireland’s new obesity chief says junk food adverts on Snapchat and Instagram are making children fat.
Popular video games are sponsored by companies that embed brand images into highly-engaging content. Health researchers have voiced their concerns that industry websites targeting teens are extremely effective, as youth spend significant, non-restricted time on the internet, exposing them to persuasive influence. I can’t speak for you, but the term brainwashing comes to mind.
Candy towers didn’t land in the center of stores that kids love by accident. You don’t see end-caps in stores with surprise collector toys covered in oats and almonds. Tubes filled with candies are topped with push-button fans embellished with psychedelic lights. Transparent TicTac boxes come in a rainbow of colors and all of these items are strategically placed on lower shelves, the perfect spot for little eyes to see.
Candy cigarettes and Big Chew were around when I was a kid and would not be accepted today. Times have changed. Choices for parents are no longer obvious. Companies are hiring psychologists to follow our kid’s every move. Making money is priority and healthy kids aren’t on the agenda.
How do we say no to the influences we can’t control but more importantly, the ones we don’t know exist?