How to protect your children from junk food marketing?


Junk food marketers relentlessly target children, aiming to establish unhealthy eating habits from a young age. As a parent, it's your job to armor them against these harmful influences. Here's your action plan:

1. Awareness is Power

·  Understand the Tactics: Learn how junk food marketers use colors, characters, celebrities, and misleading promises to make their products appealing to children. Familiarize yourself with common marketing techniques. Also, CyberGhost’s piece says it is important to teach your children to be critical viewers. When viewing television programs or browsing the internet alongside your children, engage them in discussions about the advertisements they encounter. Prompting questions such as "What do you think is the purpose behind this ad?" can foster critical thinking regarding the strategies employed by marketers.

·  Talk to Your Kids: Have open and honest conversations about advertising. Explain that ads are designed to sell products, not necessarily to promote healthy choices. You need to promote media literacy. Teach children to be media-savvy consumers by discussing how advertisers target specific demographics, including children, and how to recognize when they are being influenced by marketing tactics. At least, such advice is given in M. Gamble and N. Cotugna’s work “Promoting Healthy Food Choices in Children: A Review on Food Marketing and Communication”.

2. Control the Environment

·  Limit Screen Time: Reduce exposure to television and online ads where junk food marketing lurks. Establish screen-free zones and times.

·  Curate a Healthy Home: Make fruits, vegetables, and whole-food snacks easily accessible. Limit the presence of junk food in the pantry, minimizing temptation.

·  Advocate at School: Support healthy snack programs, vending machine restrictions, and limits on junk food marketing within your child's school.

3. Develop Media Literacy

·  Critical Consumers: Teach your kids to analyze ads. Ask questions like: "What are they trying to sell you?" "What do they want you to think or feel?"

·  Spot the Tricks: Point out deceptive tactics, like using cartoon characters or exaggerating the fun aspects of unhealthy snacks. For example, you can make the children familiar with the study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) which shows that children view an average of 12 to 16 food advertisements per day, with the majority promoting unhealthy products high in sugar, fat, and sodium.

·  The Power of "No": Help your kids feel empowered to say no to junk food, even when their peers are partaking or when pester power tactics are employed.

4. Emphasize Positive Alternatives

·  Focus on the Good: Highlight the deliciousness and benefits of healthy foods. Emphasize how good food fuels energy, strong bodies, and healthy minds.

·  Make It Fun: Involve kids in grocery shopping and meal preparation. Turn selecting fruits and vegetables into a colorful treasure hunt.

·  Be a Role Model: Kids learn by watching. If you choose healthy foods yourself, they're more likely to follow your lead.

5. Demand Change

·  Support Restrictions: Advocate for stricter regulations on junk food marketing directed at children. Contact your legislators and support organizations fighting for healthier food environments.

·  Promote Media Literacy in Schools: Push for programs that teach media literacy skills to help children become savvy consumers.

Additional Tips

·  Use Ad-Free Streaming Services: When possible, opt for streaming platforms without commercials.

·  Seek Out Positive Food Messages: Find media that promotes healthy eating in an engaging, kid-friendly way.

Remember: This is an ongoing battle. By being proactive, teaching your children critical thinking skills, and creating a healthy home environment, you can empower them to make informed choices and develop a lifelong positive relationship with food.

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