Most of us strive to be the healthiest versions of ourselves, but more importantly, parents want their kids to be the healthiest versions of themselves. The media plays a crucial role in exposing people of all ages to different products, whether it be toys, gadgets, restaurants or food, you name it- it’s likely to be advertised somewhere on some form of media. Parents are tired of the constant exposure to junk food advertising their children face. More often than not, this exposure leads to them nagging for that unhealthy snack on the TV, or throwing a tantrum in the lolly aisle of the supermarket. They’re fed up and they want changes!
Literature demonstrates the powerful and persuasive effects that advertising can have on us, and in particular on vulnerable young children. Advertisements are made to persuade and manipulate consumers: ‘advertisers generate systems of meaning, prestige and identity by associating their products with certain life-styles, symbolic values and pleasures.’ And they do exactly this when advertising food to hook the consumer in. For children, channels such as Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network are constantly being targeted for junk food promotion. However, food and beverage marketing to children is not done only through TV, but also through the internet, computer and video games, children’s magazines, child celebrity endorsements (think Peppa pig, Scooby doo, Spongebob) and sports sponsorships.
Advertising food products and brands has created concepts called ‘pester power’ and ‘importance nagging.’ Pester power is where children are constantly demanding and pestering their parents to buy them things (maybe that they have seen on TV). Whereas, importance nagging takes advantage of a parent’s desire to provide the best for their children. Advertisements will illustrate to children why they need the product, and then the children will nag to their parents how important it is for them to have the product. For example, a child might say to their parents “but everyone else has McDonalds on Friday’s after school”. This gets their parents thinking that they don’t want their kid to be left out/not feel normal. The marketing industry intentionally comes between parents and their children because that helps them sell their products.Jolly R. Marketing Obesity? Junk food, advertising and kids [Internet]. Australia: Parliament of Australia; 2011. Available from: http://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/pubs/rp/rp1011/11rp09 It is therefore evident that media and marketing professionals are using their skills to take advantage of our children. We need to change the environment Aussie kids are currently living in and are exposed to, that being an environment where big junk food brands and fast food companies are targeting kids to make money at a consequence of their health.
The PHAA’s current policy:
Currently in Australia there is limited government regulation of the marketing of unhealthy food and beverages to children. The Public Health Association of Australia (PHAA) currently endorses a policy addressing this issue. The evidence-based policy aims to guide the Australian government, the media and other advertising groups on what needs to be done to promote the health of Australian children by protecting children and adolescents from the influential marketing of unhealthy, energy dense, nutrient poor food and beverages. The policy also ensures that it is in line with other stakeholders such as the World Health Organisation and the United Nations, both who have recommendations and guidelines outlining what is “healthy” for children to be exposed to in regards to food and beverage marketing.
The PHAA policy proposes to develop a standard definition regarding which foods can and cannot be promoted to children, this should be done using The Food Standards Code Standard 1.2.7. They suggest this due to previous interventions in the United Kingdom, which show promise for Australia. The PHAA are also attempting to define ‘children’s peak viewing times’ on free to air television as 7am-9am and 4pm-9pm on weekdays, and 7am-9pm on weekends and during school holidays and for the government to develop an independent system to monitor, evaluate and regularly report on the level of exposure of food and non-alcoholic beverage marketing to the population. It is proposed in this policy that the government also prioritise children’s settings, such as early childhood services, schools, playgrounds and children’s sport, in order to eliminate exposure to unhealthy food marketing and recognises the need to develop a national regulatory approach to reduce the exposure of marketing to children and adolescents. Organisations such as the Heart Foundation, the NSW Ministry of Health, as well as the State, Territory and even Local Governments, should also consider areas where they can regulate independent from national regulation.
With regards to what the PHAA are doing, they have committed to collaborating with other non-government organisations and academics to advocate for the government to action these proposals, thus ultimately reducing the exposure of unhealthy food and beverage marketing to children. They are pushing for the policy at all levels of government and to all political parties, as well as to the general public.
So what is currently being done?
In 2004, The Howard Government reacted to the obesity crisis and introduced a $116million campaign known as ‘Building a Healthy Active Australia’. This was a four year program focusing on children’s physical activity levels. However, the Government were adamant in not considering banning junk food advertising during children’s television program hours. During this time, the Government stated that parents needed to take responsibility of their children and the government have no role to play. Additionally Tony Abbott, the Minister for Health at the time, said that parents are foolish and needed to ‘lift their game’ in relation to those who fed their children junk food and simply the fix was to turn off the TV. Since then, the government have remained silent on the issue. Due to a lack of government support, currently there is no national regulatory framework to monitor food and beverage advertising towards Australian children. The Australian Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments should strive to enforce stricter advertising regulation surrounding food and beverages towards children, especially as childhood obesity rates are on the rise. Of course, it is not the solution to this problem, but it is one simple step in the right direction.
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|1.||⇪||Jolly R. Marketing Obesity? Junk food, advertising and kids [Internet]. Australia: Parliament of Australia; 2011. Available from: http://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/pubs/rp/rp1011/11rp09|