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If you're a mom, you know well enough that companies target your kids with ads for everything from sports drinks to sneakers. Sixty-five percent of parents believe the fast food industry has a negative influence on their children's and teen's eating habits.  And it's no surprise really - US teens spend about 20% of their money on food.

New research confirms what we've always sensed: kids don't have the ability to interpret marketing, making them particularly vulnerable targets.

While the food industry has recognized the impropriety of marketing to kids age 11 and younger, through there Children's Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI), new research by the Yale Rudd Center shows that marketing negatively affects kids 12 and older too. "Given the likely negative impact of food marketing on all children's diets and health, food and media companies should expand self-regulation to protect children through their most developmentally vulnerable period, at least until age 14," the authors note.

Highlights from the report:

  • The adolescent brain is highly vulnerable to marketing, especially when it's pushing really tempting stuff.
  • The ways kids are being targeted - through social media and mobile phones - can seem like fun and games. Making it even harder to recognize.
  • Companies have actually increased marketing of some of the most unhealthy products to kids 12 and older.
  • Older kids are establishing themselves as more independent from their parents, making them particularly vulnerable.
  • Older kids already have some of the highest rates of consumption of unhealthy products.

Indeed, the food and beverage industry sees a clear target. Food companies spend over $1 billion annually on marketing to teens (12 and older).  As if we didn't already know, marketing of unhealthy products really does affect our kids' health.

So where does that leave moms like us?  The report recommends: expanding the CFBAI (the industry's self-regulatory commitment) to limit marketing to older kids; companies developing and updating their own policies; and federal, state, local and school bodies enacting legislation limiting marketing to kids.

Moms can do this and more. Why not also:

  • Help MomsRising tell restaurants to get soda off kids' meals as the default beverage!
  • Tell Nickelodeon to adopt strong guidelines for marketing to kids through all of their child-directed media.
  • Help your school implement the new meal and snack standards. These are important guidelines that will bring healthier food to the cafeteria and vending machines.
  • Get involved in your school's Wellness Committee. This is the body that basically suggests the school's "attitude" towards food within and beyond the cafeteria … for example around endorsements, bake sales, etc.

We've seen the tremendous power moms like us can have  - from promoting policies at our kids' schools around healthy foods, to pressuring corporations with the power of our wallets. After all, what's a billion dollars in marketing compared to some fired up moms? Not much, I'd say!!

Check out the Rudd report: 
Harris, Jennifer, PhD, MBA, Heard, Amy, BA and Schwartz, Marlene B., PhD. "Older but still vulnerable: All children need protection from unhealthy food marketing". Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity. January, 2014.

All statistics above are taken directly from this report.


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