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Call to ban junk food on kids’ social media

Susie O’Brien, June 17, 2020 7:00PM Herald Sun

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Frenches Forrest mum Susie Campbell, pictured in 2019 with sons Thomas (in blue) and Patrick, is concerned at the amount of fast food advertising that bombards social media while her sons are playing games or watching videos. Picture: Toby Zerna media_cameraFrenches Forrest mum Susie Campbell, pictured in 2019 with sons Thomas (in blue) and Patrick, is concerned at the amount of fast food advertising that bombards social media while her sons are playing games or watching videos. Picture: Toby Zerna

health

Reading level: orange

Fast-food companies are bombarding* children and teenagers on social media with ads for unhealthy junk food and drinks, a new study has found.

Deakin University’s Global Obesity Centre researchers found none of the 16 most popular social media platforms had comprehensive* restrictions on the advertising of junk foods to young people.

This means kids are exposed to lots of posts asking them to enter competitions to win free food and click links to play games. They are also shown ads and products placed into games and videos.

Experts have found such engagement on sites including Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, What’sApp and Facebook makes it more likely children will eat the food promoted.

“Almost nine in 10 Australian teenagers are active on ­social media, where they’re heavily targeted by junk food companies,” lead researcher Associate Professor Gary Sacks said. “In one recent study, over half of Australian kids active on Facebook had ‘liked’ a fast-food brand.”

He said there was an urgent need to restrict the ads in the same way companies blocked promotion of cosmetic surgery, alcohol, gambling and weight-loss ads on sites for children.

Prof Sacks said YouTube Kids prohibited junk food marketing on its platform but children could still be exposed through product placement and promotional videos.

Asking companies to do the right thing without strict rules to follow hasn’t worked in the past.

“Existing* voluntary industry self-regulation* has been shown to be ineffective* in protecting children from exposure to unhealthy food marketing,” he said.

Social media marketing now makes up 13 per cent of the global advertising spend and 28 per cent of children and teenagers in Australia are overweight or obese.

Junk Food adverts for Teens media_cameraHealthy teens Issy, 15, and Francesca, 14, prefer a good smooth and making a mess in the kitchen to eating fast food. Picture: David Caird

Francesca, 14, of Surrey Hills, Victoria, said social media ads for fast food seemed so normal she hardly noticed them.

“I see them but I ignore them, but they must get seen by a lot of customers given that they market to young people directly,” she said.

GLOSSARY

  • bombarding: subject someone to a continuous flow of questions, information, ads or similar
  • comprehensive: including or dealing with every part of something
  • existing: already in place
  • self-regulation: stopping yourself from doing something, without rules placed on you by someone else
  • ineffective: didn’t or don’t work

EXTRA READING

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Teens guzzling too much soft drink

Junk food ban needed for school canteens

Plan to check students’ height, weight to fight obesity

QUICK QUIZ

  1. Which university ran the study?
  2. What is more likely to happen if kids see junk food on social media?
  3. How could children still see junk food on social media if ads are banned?
  4. How successful has voluntary self-regulation of advertising been?
  5. How old is Francesca?

LISTEN TO THIS STORY

CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES
1. Make the Rules
Write a list of at least five rules about unhealthy junk food that social media platforms should follow.

Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Science, Health and Physical Education

2. Extension
‘A world without rules.’ Write a story or create an artwork based on this idea.

Time: allow at least 30 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Visual Arts, Critical and Creative Thinking

VCOP ACTIVITY
Aside from this, there is also this!
Brackets are a great literacy tool for adding aside comments, or comments that could be covered over and the sentence still makes sense. What’s inside the brackets is extra information.

They can be used for a variety of effects: to add more detail, to add humour, to connect with the reader etc.

My little brother, (the funniest kid I know) got himself into big trouble today.

Select 3 sentences from the article to add an aside comment to using brackets. Think about not only what you want to add to the sentence, but also what effect you are trying to create.

HAVE YOUR SAY: Do you think social media junk food ads aimed at children should be banned?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will be published until approved by editors.

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