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Teen Health 411
Teen Health 411

Online Food Advertising to Kids Another Venue to Market Junk Food

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A report released in July by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 85% of the top food brands that target children through television advertising also have Web sites that market to children. These corporate-sponsored sites are primarily marketing foods and beverages high in fat, calroies, and sugar, also known as junk food.

The study, "It's Child's Play: Advergaming and the Online Marketing of Food to Children," examined the marketing methods used on 77 children's food and beverage Web sites, finding that sites are disguising their efforts to reach children as games or competitions. Advergaming - online games featuring products - was included in 73% of the Web sites. Viral marketing, a technique where consumers market to one another via the Internet, was found on 64% of the sites. The sites encouraged children to send invitations, greeting cards and birthday wishes through emails that display product names and characters.

These techniques are dangerous in light of the country's growing childhood obesity problem. They are not only promotoing the consumption of junk food, but inactivity while sitting at the computer.

For some teens, junk food is an American way of life, and also an addiction. Junk food contributes little or no nutrient value to the diet, but instead provides excess calories and fat. Some examples of junk food are candy, breakfast pastries, high fat chips and dip, and high fat foods from fast food restaurants.

When consumed in small amounts, junk food can be worked into a healthy lifestyle. The key is not to eat junk food more than once a week or replace healthy foods with junk food, but to get enough exercise to burn off the extra calories these foods contribute.

To kick the junk food habit an entire family has to focus on eating healthy foods. Pay attention to the choices available in the house and during the day and avoid situations that may encourage a "junk attack," like sitting in front of the television all evening. When you do eat well, notice that you feel less tired, are less irritated, and may even sleep better.

Do not be extreme, for more information, contact your healthcare provider or a registered dietitian in your area to help you change your eating habits.


Photo credit: Dan4th
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About the Author

Dr. Brown is a developmental psychologist specializing in adolescent health.

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