Stop junk food ads on kids’ apps - WHO

Malta Independent - - HEALTH -

Chil­dren need to be pro­tected from per­va­sive junk food ad­verts in apps, so­cial me­dia and video blogs, the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion says.

Its re­port warns par­ents are of­ten un­aware of the sheer vol­ume of such ad­verts as they are pre­cisely tar­get­ing chil­dren.

The WHO also crit­i­cised gov­ern­ments for fail­ing to keep up with a rev­o­lu­tion in the way peo­ple con­sume me­dia.

Chil­dren’s doc­tors said strict mea­sures were needed to stop child­hood obe­sity.

The re­port at­tacked the way some video blog­gers - vlog­gers get paid by junk food re­tail­ers to pro­mote their food.

It quotes a US anal­y­sis that sug­gests vlog­gers are now more in­flu­en­tial at pro­mot­ing brands than film or TV be­cause of per­ceived authen­tic­ity.

It also raised con­cern about the way fast food chains en­cour­age kids through their doors by mak­ing restau­rants im­por­tant lo­ca­tions in aug­mented re­al­ity games like Poke­mon Go.

And said data on chil­dren their age, lo­ca­tion, likes and pref­er­ences - were be­ing col­lected to tar­get them with junk food ad­verts. Dr Joao Breda, the WHO pro­gramme man­ager for nu­tri­tion, phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity and obe­sity, told the BBC News web­site: “It is go­ing dig­i­tal very strongly and we know that ex­ist­ing models of reg­u­la­tion have holes and gaps that don’t cover the needs of our chil­dren.

“We think it’s huge, but par­ents don’t know - some­times they don’t re­alise their chil­dren are be­ing ex­posed.

“You could ar­gue that is it more dan­ger­ous [than tra­di­tional me­dia like TV].”

Some coun­tries such as the UK have in­tro­duced rules to pro­tect chil­dren from junk-food ad­ver­tis­ing such as bans dur­ing chil­dren’s tele­vi­sion, how­ever, the re­port said reg­u­la­tion had “failed to keep up with the pace and scope of change in the me­dia”.

On Thurs­day, fig­ures in Eng­land showed nearly one-in-five chil­dren were obese when they left pri­mary school.

“With the obe­so­genic en­vi­ron­ment they are liv­ing in to­day, it re­ally isn’t a sur­prise,” said Prof Rus­sell Viner, from the UK’s Royal Col­lege of Pae­di­atrics and Child Health.

He added: “It is rep­re­hen­si­ble that chil­dren are tar­geted on­line, through bill­board ad­ver­tis­ing and on tele­vi­sion as they watch their favourite shows.”

Prof Viner said there needed to be “strict mea­sures put in place to pro­tect” chil­dren and that gov­ern­ments needed to act ur­gently to pre­vent “mar­keters cyn­i­cally tar­get­ing chil­dren on­line, on our streets and on tele­vi­sion”.

Dr Ali­son Ted­stone, chief nu­tri­tion­ist at Pub­lic Health Eng­land, said: “Our ev­i­dence review shows that all forms of ad­ver­tis­ing and mar­ket­ing - in­clud­ing the use of char­ac­ters, ad­vergames and dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing - af­fect the bal­ance of chil­dren’s di­ets.”

The or­gan­i­sa­tion is cur­rently re­view­ing what foods and drinks can be ad­ver­tised to chil­dren.

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