According to a UNICEF study, 30 percent of Colombian children have problems with obesity. This percentage is directly related to the effect that advertising has on children's eating habits and, to prevent its harmful effects from spreading further, parents are calling for the restriction of advertising for unhealthy food and drinks. It is estimated that a large percentage of children and adolescents would not be overweight if it were not for exposure to malicious advertising and, moreover, to any type of screen, sedentary activity that has an impact on maximising the risk factors for obesity. Why are
children affected by advertising?It is estimated that children see approximately 300 000 advertisements per year.
Among these advertisements, the vast majority advertise unhealthy food products that impact on the consumption of sugary drinks and junk food. Children are vulnerable to advertising and do not understand that it is a persuasive strategy. The concern is that companies in the industry are taking advantage of this situation by overcoming government controls through the use of familiar figures, catchy songs and the happiness that comes from consuming the promoted products. The collective demand is to regulate what type of advertising is transmitted in the media to mitigate the harmful effects it can have on the eating habits of the most vulnerable sector of the population.
In addition tothe hours spent by children in front of the television, the advent of the Internet and mobile phones seems to complicate the picture even further.
Many children are replacing television with digital content and regulating advertising in these media is even more complicated. For example, in the UK there are regulations on advertising that is broadcast on television, but not on digital platforms such as YouTube. As these are unregulated media, obesity problems continue to spread and the World Health Organization is calling on governments to restrict digital advertising as well. As a defence, marketing companies claim that consumers can choose which foods they eat and that there is no link between children's eating habits and advertising.
Marketing strategies abuse the vulnerability of children and ensure that consumers are loyal to a brand from an early age. A very high percentage of children suffer from obesity problems; one of the main reasons is exposure to advertisements for unhealthy food and drink. Marketing strategies ensure a loyal audience because of the vulnerability of children who do not understand persuasion. Concern is growing among health organisations and there are calls for governments to restrict advertising in the media.
Companies claim not to affect children's eating habits, but studies show the opposite.