Marketing junk food to kids is nothing new and has been a topic in public health for many years. Most of us can remember either a fast food restaurant commercial with a catchy jingle or a brightly-coloured cereal box that seemed to speak directly to us from the grocery store aisle. We may not have known it then, but they were speaking directly to us. In fact, in a study commissioned by the Heart & Stroke Foundation, University of Ottawa scientists found that in one year children viewed more than 25 million ads of unhealthy junk food targeted specifically at them.
It’s not just television or print media, but also movies, video games, apps and social media. Many of which are covert ads imbedded in games and packaged as part of the story. Unfortunately, when it comes to screen time most children can’t distinguish the difference between entertainment and advertising.
Is this something that needs to be addressed in our homes, city and province? At this time Quebec is the only province in Canada that bans commercial advertising to children under thirteen years old; they also have the lowest childhood obesity rates in the country. Many European countries such as Norway, Sweden and the U.K. have followed suit and implemented their own bans on advertising aimed at children.