New Rules Won't Protect Children Enough From Junk Food Marketing

It is a fact that advertising influences the food that children choose to eat. With one third of children overweight or obese by their eleventh birthday, we need to protect them from relentless junk food marketing in all walks of life. This is why for the last ten years we have had rules banning adverts for junk food and drinks high in fat, sugar and salt from being broadcast around children’s TV programmes.

But as any parent knows, long gone are the days when children’s ‘screen-time’ was based exclusively on being huddled round the TV watching the latest TV shows in real time. Thanks to our multi-media world, children are more likely to be watching their favourite shows on an iPad, or viewing popular YouTube vloggers showing them ‘how to’ do everything from the latest hairstyle to how to survive in Minecraft.

As media habits evolve, marketers have developed new and more sophisticated ways to engage our children with their latest offering. But unfortunately, regulation hasn’t kept up at the same pace. So earlier this month, the Committee on Advertising Practice (CAP) finally announced important new rules to protect children from junk food marketing to in the non-broadcast environment – i.e. online, social media, newspapers, magazines and cinema.

This is an important and welcome first step that health campaigners have been calling for, for a number of years.

On the face of it, the new rules seem comprehensive, but there are still several big loopholes. The rules still allow junk food advertising during peak TV viewing time for family shows like Coronation Street and X-Factor. That means that millions of children could still be exposed to persuasive adverts for junk food and sugary drinks and products.

1. The restrictions will only apply when over 25% of the audience are children.

This means media which is universally popular with both adults and children would not meet the threshold. Imagine a YouTube video which may be watched by 20 million viewers. As long as 15 million of them are adults,…

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