Most parents are aware of the many dangers that pose a threat to their children online, including violent or sexually explicit content, predators, and cyberbullies to name a few. Not many parents stop to think about the negative influence of online advertisements, though, particularly those that peddle unhealthy food choices.
### The Facts About Junk Food Ads
Do junk food companies really target kids? According to a Yale University study, the answer is a resounding “yes.” The results of the research conducted at the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity and published in Pediatric Obesity uncovered billions of dollars in advertisements for unhealthy food choices deliberately placed on children’s websites. And if that’s not cause enough for concern, many fast food restaurants, sugary cereal companies, and other brands pushing unhealthy food choices have their very own websites and social media accounts that lure kids in with interactive advertisements masquerading as games.
### What Can Parents Do?
In a perfect world, parents could reasonably expect companies to take the responsible route by either making healthier foods or at the very least changing their marketing approach, but this isn’t a utopia, and as long as there’s a profit to be made, there will be companies willing to do whatever it takes to cash in. What does this mean for parents? It means that we have to double our efforts to filter the ads we can while simultaneously informing kids about healthy food choices. Younger kids need to be able to distinguish food from entertainment. Older kids should know that their favorite celebrities endorse products not because they like them, but because they’re being paid to do it.
### Everything in Moderation
As unfortunate as it is that we have to protect our kids from marketers simply looking to sell products, it does provide parents with a good opportunity to teach kids about moderation. Few parents would deprive their kid of a sugary treat every now and then, but it’s important to teach kids why we can’t eat potato chips and ice cream all day and expect to feel good. Limiting time on the Internet is also a good idea. Not only will this lessen the number of online junk food ads your kid is exposed to, but it will also free up time for physical activities that are necessary for a healthy lifestyle.
Are your kids being influenced by junk food ads? How are you tackling the problem? We’d love to hear your thoughts on this important issue.