Hid­den dig­i­tal ads push­ing chil­dren to eat fatty food, health ex­perts warn

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

LON­DON: Chil­dren in Europe are bom­barded with hid­den dig­i­tal ad­ver­tis­ing and mar­ket­ing pro­mot­ing fatty, sug­ary and salty foods that is dam­ag­ing their health and ad­ding to the re­gion’s obe­sity prob­lem, World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion ex­perts said on Fri­day. The re­searchers called for pol­i­cy­mak­ers to do more to pro­tect chil­dren from junk food ad­ver­tis­ing mes­sages on net­work­ing sites, games - known as “ad­vergames” - and other so­cial me­dia.

“Our gov­ern­ments have given the pre­ven­tion of child­hood obe­sity the high­est po­lit­i­cal pri­or­ity, (yet) we con­sis­tently find that chil­dren - our most vul­ner­a­ble group - are ex­posed to count­less num­bers of hid­den dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing tech­niques pro­mot­ing foods high in fat, sugar and salt,” said Zsuzsanna Jakab, the WHO’s re­gional di­rec­tor for Europe.

She said in the ab­sence of ef­fec­tive reg­u­la­tion of dig­i­tal me­dia in many coun­tries, chil­dren are in­creas­ingly ex­posed to per­sua­sive, in­di­vid­u­ally tai­lored mar­ket­ing tech­niques that par­ents may un­der­es­ti­mate, or be un­aware of. “Of­ten, par­ents do not see the same ad­ver­tise­ments, nor do they ob­serve the on­line ac­tiv­i­ties of their chil­dren; many there­fore un­der­es­ti­mate the scale of the prob­lem,” said the WHO.

About two-thirds of chil­dren who are over­weight be­fore pu­berty will be over­weight in early adult­hood, and an es­ti­mated 25 per­cent of school-aged chil­dren in Europe are al­ready over­weight or obese, said the re­port. Over­weight and obese chil­dren are likely to stay obese into adult­hood and more likely to de­velop chronic ill­nesses such as di­a­betes and heart dis­ease and can­cer at a younger age. Gau­den Galea, a WHO Europe ex­pert on chronic dis­ease and health pro­mo­tion, said al­low­ing ad­ver­tis­ers and the food in­dus­try to tar­get chil­dren like this could have “huge health and eco­nomic con­se­quences”.

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