Given the number of health related problems associated with obesity, childhood obesity has come under close attention in the last years due to its worrying trends. The WHO estimates that 1 child in 3 in Europe is overweight or obese. While there are many factors explaining these trends, a predominant one is unhealthy eating habits, namely, the overconsumption of food high in fat, salt and/or sugar (HFSS), and the heavy marketing and advertising of HFSS food has been flagged by a number of researchers, neatly summarized by the WHO, as a determining factor.
Advertising and marketing in the media and especially in digital media pose a number of challenges for the effective realisation of the rights of the child. Digital media appeal to a child’s emotions, lets them enjoy an entertaining experience and thereby makes them more vulnerable to commercial messages. With ever increasing data generated by users and better designed data analytics tools, digital media can personalize and target advertising to a level never seen before. Coupled with the fact that a majority of digital media rely on business models centered on advertising, this creates a highly problematic online environment for children. COFACE Families Europe is deeply concerned by all of these developments and has taken a number of initiatives to limit children’s exposure to advertising of HFSS foods.
COFACE Families Europe is campaigning to help tackle childhood obesity and has developed an interactive tool called Nutrimedia. It can be used as a starting point for discussions on the impact of advertising on the food choices of children and youth. It provides parents and children with:
a broad overview of the general context of HFSS food marketing, looking at key figures such as the amount of money flowing into advertising, and the products which are most heavily advertised;
a detailed analysis of the different advertising techniques used in both traditional and digital media to help parents and children understand them and recognize them;
a review of the implications of the growing commercialization of the Internet and the over-reliance on business models based on marketing/advertising;
a number of recommendations on how to build resilience to marketing/advertising and what to do about it.
The package highlights key questions at policy, legal and industry level. As well as raising awareness of the impact of advertising on food choices of youth, it aims to provide to parents and educators to make conscious nutrition decisions, and better ally social and health policy.
Read also our policy brief about Nutrimedia here