The Impact of Advertising on Childhood Obesity
In the digital world of advertising, large companies have a huge impact on children’s lives. Billion dollar fast food companies such as McDonalds and Burger King use persuasive techniques that attract young children to eat at their establishment. According to the American Psychological Association in their report, The Impact of Food Advertising on Childhood Obesity, “Approximately 20% of our youth are now overweight with obesity rates in preschool age children increasing at alarming speed”. This shows that with the increase in media and advertising in this new age, childhood obesity is also following at a fast rate. Advertising to children affects their diet, and overall health.
In the last quarter century alone, America’s youth obesity rates have almost tripled (“The Impact”). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, obesity rates have gone from 5.0% to 12.4% between ages 2 to 5. Between the ages 6 and 11, rates have gone from 6.5% to an astounding 17.0%, and between ages 12 and 19, obesity rates have more than tripled from 5.0% to 17.6%. These numbers show drastic increases in obesity from ages 2 to 19. According to the Business Insider, U.S. children ages 6 to 11 watched on average 253.6 advertisements for McDonalds in 2012 (Feloni). This is only for McDonalds advertisements on television and is still almost a McDonalds advertisement every day. The next highest amount of advertisements was from Subway with 81.2 advertisements per year ages 6 to 11. These numbers are only for advertisements on television also. According to the Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the average child views more than 3000 advertisements – per day; this includes television, the Internet, billboards, and magazines. Advertisers are trying to target younger and younger children to establish a “brand-name preference” as young as possible. This is all possible because the advertising industry is a $250 billion per year industry throughout 900,000 brands and teenagers alone spend a whopping $155 billion per year; children under 12 spend $25 billion, and both groups probably influence $200 billion of their parents’ spending per year (“Children”).
Companies are targeting younger and younger audiences for many reasons. According to the OJAAP, “Research has shown that young children—younger than 8 years—are cognitively and psychologically defenseless against advertising” (“Children”). These children don’t understand the intent to sell and accept advertising claims at “face value”. This had been reviewed in the late 1970s by the Federal Trade Commission, or FTC. The FTC held hearings, reviewed research, and concluded that it was “unfair and deceptive to advertise to children younger than 6 years”. This is still true today, but nothing can be done about it. An example of this in current McDonalds commercials is with their happy meals. All their advertisements tell children and parents how healthy the milk and apples are in their happy meal, but say nothing about the cheeseburger or chicken nuggets that come with it. They are using selective advertising to make consumers believe that they are eating a healthy meal, when in fact only a slim part of their meal is slightly healthy. What kept the FTC from banning these advertisements was “it was thought to be impractical to implement such a ban”. Even though it may seem impractical for Americans, in countries such as Sweden and Norway, they have forbidden all advertising directed at children younger than 12 years of age. In Greece, it is banned to have toy advertising before 10 PM, and Demark and Belgium have severely restricted advertising aimed at children (“Children”). The problem about these advertisements in America is that nothing is being done about it. These big companies are allowed to target children at any age they seem fit. This should be seen as false advertising and be restricted.
Cited: "Children, Adolescents, and Advertising." Children, Adolescents, and Advertising. American Academy of Pediatrics, 2013. Web. 16 Dec. 2014.
Feloni, Richard. "Here 's How Many Fast Food Advertisements American Children See Each Year." Business Insider. Business Insider, Inc, 15 Nov. 2013. Web. 16 Dec. 2014.
"The Impact of Food Advertising on Childhood Obesity." Apa.org. American Psychological Association, 2014. Web. 16 Dec. 2014.
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