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Marketing Food to Our Kids Online?

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Parents and caregivers beware! Is online food marketing directed at your kids a concern for you? Have you ever given it much thought? Does that term even make sense? We seem to worry so much about all the junk food advertising our kids see on television, but what about what they see on those food manufacturers’ websites? Well, they’re seeing A LOT!
The Kaiser Family Foundation recently released the first study of its kind detailing exactly what our kids are seeing and doing when they visit those websites. In the appropriately titled First Analysis of Online Food Advertising Targeting Children, Kaiser looked at over 4000 web pages. They report a variety of techniques food manufacturers’ use to engage kids in online activities in order to get them to spend time on their websites. Kids can play games (Kaiser has termed these “advergames”) or enter themselves in sweepstakes and other promotions. If they missed the commercial on TV, they can watch it again on their site. Some of the sites use our kids for market research by asking them to vote for different products, or to take a poll. Other sites require users to purchase their products in order to gain access to more pages on the site or to collect points to win product related merchandise. Some sites ask kids to email their friends to tell them to visit the site (another clever Kaiser generated term, “viral marketing”).All of these techniques are designed to create brand loyalty in our kids.
And how do they know about these sites? More marketing of course, food companies promote their ‘kid friendly’ websites in TV ads and on packaging. Online advertising certainly doesn’t reach as many kids as television advertising. But consider this, when a child sees a commercial on TV they are exposed to it for about 15-30 seconds, 60 max. When they visit that brand’s website they get in much deeper. They can spend hours perusing the site and checking out different products.
So what does this all mean? You tell me. What are your thoughts on this kind of food marketing to our kids? Not a big deal? Or are you concerned? Let me know what you think.To check out this study click here
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About the Author

Registered dietitian Andrea N. Giancoli is a nutrition advocate, consultant and educator.

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