According to Australia Food Safety News, junk food companies are targeting kids on social media. This comes off the back of findings from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, which state that around 1 in 4 Aussie kids are considered medically overweight.
This week, we’re looking at the facts surrounding obesity in children, and whether social media is a key contributor.
The study relating to junk food companies in Australia and their social media activity was undertaken by Sydney University’s School of Public Health. It spanned a one-month period, and found that unhealthy food and drink companies garnered ‘Likes’ in the number of over 13 million from Aussie consumers on social media. (Specifically Facebook.)
Experts in the health sector felt concern that aggressive marketing techniques may be a catalyst for obesity in Australian children.
What can be done?
Similar studies conducted only recently found that TV programming focused on kids aged between 6 and 11 had 10% less advertising relating to unhealthy food. This is because the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) restricts junk food advertising during child-related programming.
This does not exist for social media, but perhaps it should.
How do junk food companies target kids on social media?
Sydney University’s study looked at 27 of the highest-ranking Facebook pages for junk food brands. The following brands attained the highest number of ‘Likes’:
- Bubble O’Bill Ice Cream – over a million ‘Likes’.
- Skittles – over 890,000 ‘Likes’.
- Domino’s – over 762,000 ‘Likes’.
- Coca-Cola Australia – over 761,000 ‘Likes’.
- Coca-Cola – over 714,000 ‘Likes’.
Each page attracted ‘Likes’ through games, picture competitions and endorsements, with many encouraging consumers to take a selfie or image of themselves holding the product to achieve temporary online fame. This is arguably a strategy that lures children and young people to engage with unhealthy products.
Is there a solution?
Lead researcher of the Sydney Uni study, Dr Becky Freeman, was reported as saying to Australian Food Safety News that ongoing unhealthy food and drink marketing had an impact on the rise of obesity in Australia.
Dr Freeman acknowledged that a total ban on junk food advertising was not likely, but as a minimum initial step, more monitoring of how unhealthy food and drink is marketed through social media is vital.
What can parents do?
If your child is on Facebook, we recommend taking a moment to see what brands they have ‘Liked’ through their profile. If they are Liking a high volume of junk food brands, it may be worth having an open discussion with them about how and why unhealthy food companies target young people.
Of course, every parent must decide how to deal with the challenges of social media in a way that suits their own child and their own parenting style. Simply understanding that junk food brands do target young people will arguably give you greater awareness around what is happening in your child’s online world. This in turn, makes a difference to your child.
Want to know more?
Like our Safe Social Media for Kids Facebook page for regular updates on keeping your kids safe online. You can also check back regularly on our blog, which features articles on topics relating to online safety for kids all around the world.