The Morning Call (Sunday)

The Unhealthy ‘Kidfluence’ On Children

- By Anahad O’Connor


YouTube channels that are popular with young children are targeting them with thinly veiled ads for sugary beverages and junk food.

That is the conclusion of a study published in the journal Pediatrics. The authors of the study analyzed more than 400 YouTube videos featuring so-called kid influencer­s — children who star in videos that show them reviewing toys and playing games. The study found that videos were awash in endorsemen­ts and product placements for brands like McDonald’s, Carl’s Jr., Hershey’s, Chuck E. Cheese and Taco Bell.

A spokeswoma­n for YouTube said, “We don’t allow paid promotiona­l content on YouTube Kids and have clear guidelines which restrict categories like food and beverage from advertisin­g on the app.”

Experts say it is a public health concern. Childhood obesity rates have skyrockete­d in recent years: Nearly 20 percent of American children between the ages of 2 and 19 are obese, up from 5.5 percent in the mid-1970s.

The Federal Trade Commission has long forbidden certain advertisin­g tactics on children’s television. Critics say it could apply the same rules to the internet, but so far has chosen not to.

“It’s beyond absurd that you couldn’t do this on Nickelodeo­n or ABC but you can do this on YouTube just because the laws were written before we had an internet,” said Josh Golin, the executive director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, an advocacy group.

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