A new study has found children are extremely susceptible to junk food advertising, with stricter families being more vulnerable.
The Univerity of Wollongong’s Professor Bridget Kelly found junk food advertising had a direct influence on the amount of junk food a child consumed. Of the 160 children who participated in the study, Prof. Kelly found he children most vulnerable to junk food advertising were those from families who had stricter food guidelines.
Course Director in the Nutrition Science and School of Medicine at the University of Wollongong Dr Anne Mcmahon supervised the study and said the data provides insight into how influential marketing can be on children.
“This study shows that while some people are trying to protect their children, it isn’t working. We need a much broader approach when working with marketers to make them aware that those kind of messages can be really unhelpful,” Dr Mcmahon said.
“We can see there is a potential for quite a large amount of damage that can come from [advertisements]. Children take these habits going forward and it impacts the rest of their life so we have to fundamentally change how we approach and support kids healthy eating behaviours.”
UOW School of Marketing senior lecturer Dr Jennifer Algie said marketers have a moral obligation when it comes to targeting children.
“Children would be considered vulnerable consumers because they are not able to make those cognitive decisions that adults are capable of making,” Dr Algie said.
“Marketers should be behaving ethically in terms of thinking more broadly than just making profits they need to think more broadly about their societal impacts.”
Dr Algie said the federal government needed to take control of the issue, so that parents can help their children make healthy dietary decisions.
“There is a lot of misleading going on in this market space when it comes to children’s health, the government does need to say ok its hard for parents to make the right choice we need to have better regulation to help them make the right choice,” she said.
Life Wellness Co. nutritionist Stephanie Meade said the best way educate children about healthy eating was to inform them about how marketing campaigns influence people and the dangers of eating junk food on a regular basis.
“Talk to your kids about why you are making certain food choices for them at home,” she said.
“It is important speak to a child and get them to become aware of how their body is feeling after eating that food.”