How Children Are Vulnerable To Junk Food Ads On Social Media

Social media platforms can identify children who are most interested in or vulnerable to junk food and its advertising.

According to koodakpress، 

From spreading fake news, to fostering narcissism and online bullying, social media is under increasing fire. The question of how to harness its potential while limiting negative effects is one of the biggest of our age. And its effects on children’s physical and mental health is perhaps one of the greatest challenges.

Yet among all this debate about how social media has changed our lives, children’s exposure to advertising on social media is rarely discussed. This is ironic, as advertising pays for social media. It drives the design of new platforms, which relentlessly seek to capture users’ attention.

Advertising to children is widely regarded as ethically problematic. Young children cannot distinguish between advertising and editorial or entertainment content; and older children, even if they rationally understand the selling intent behind advertising, are often still subject to its emotional and unconscious influence.

Junk food advertising, which is linked to increased child weight and obesity, sharpens this ethical issue, compounding it with health concerns. From three years of age, children recognise more unhealthy than healthy food brand logos. Children hold many rights under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, including the right to health, which governments have a duty to protect in the best interests of the child. Yet very few states have regulated food advertising effectively to fulfil their legal obligations under the convention.

Targeted ads

Regulators do seek to protect children from the harmful effects of TV advertising. But they typically focus on advertising “targeted at”, “directed at”, or “designed to attract the attention of”, children. These phrases have proven far too narrow. Most adverts that children see in broadcast media or the physical environment do not specifically “target” them; they are shown during family TV programmes, such as prime-time sitcoms and reality shows, on billboards and bus shelters, or around sports fields where children and families watch their teams play.

In 2010, Ofcom published a review of the effectiveness of its 2007 rules banning junk food advertising in and around children’s TV programmes. It concluded that broadcasters had largely complied, but advertisers shifted to unregulated programmes, and as adult airtime accounted for nearly 70 per cent of children’s viewing, children were still exposed to high levels of junk food advertising.

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