WHO urges curbs on on­line food mar­ket­ing to chil­dren

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

Gov­ern­ments must do more to pro­tect chil­dren from so­phis­ti­cated on­line meth­ods used to mar­ket un­healthy foods to them, the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion in Europe said in a re­port re­leased Fri­day.

By us­ing dig­i­tal an­a­lyt­ics and ge­olo­ca­tion data, com­pa­nies were defin­ing their au­di­ence with great pre­ci­sion, en­abling them to tar­get the most vul­ner­a­ble groups of chil­dren, the UN agency warned.

And it urged gov­ern­ments to set a min­i­mum le­gal age of 16 for ad­ver­tis­ing foods high in fat, salt or sugar. Cur­rent reg­u­la­tions about ad­ver­tis­ing such foods of­ten only ap­ply to non-dig­i­tal me­dia, or only re­lated to young chil­dren and not ado­les­cents, it said. “In dig­i­tal me­dia, an ex­ten­sive, high­ly­complex sys­tem of ad­ver­tis­ing de­liv­ery has evolved, through which mar­keters can ac­cess much more spe­cific au­di­ences than in the broad­cast era,” the re­port said. “For fast-food brands, ge­olo­ca­tion data from mo­bile de­vices en­able mar­keters to de­liver ads and spe­cial of­fers in real time when users are in the area.”

The aim of the in­dus­try’s dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing was to “en­gage chil­dren in emo­tional, en­ter­tain­ing ex­pe­ri­ences and to en­cour­age them to share these ex­pe­ri­ences with their friends,” it said. In the United States, the Chil­dren’s On­line Pri­vacy Pro­tec­tion Act (COPPA) lim­its how much data can be col­lected from young chil­dren, and bans “be­hav­ioral ad­ver­tis­ing” di­rected at chil­dren un­der 13 with­out parental no­tice and con­sent.

But the agency said the law ap­peared to be largely in­ef­fec­tive since many par­ents gave their chil­dren per­mis­sion to play games or join cer­tain sites with­out re­al­iz­ing the im­pli­ca­tions of al­low­ing their chil­dren’s data to be col­lected.

So­cial me­dia plat­forms and mar­keters have them­selves re­ported that so­cial me­dia mar­ket­ing am­pli­fies the ef­fects of broad­cast mar­ket­ing.

Es­tab­lish­ing a min­i­mum le­gal age for such ad­ver­tis­ing must be ac­com­pa­nied by “ef­fec­tive over­sight and en­force­ment by reg­u­la­tory agen­cies,” it said. “Chil­dren’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in dig­i­tal me­dia should not be pred­i­cated on re­ceiv­ing dig­i­tal (high fat, sugar or salt food) ad­ver­tis­ing, nor should it be pred­i­cated on ‘de­volv­ing’ con­sent to par­ents,” it said. — AFP

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