TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Exploitative Internet Marketing Fuels Child Obesity

Exploitative Internet Marketing Fuels Child Obesity

Michael Perry (
Tue, 05 Sep 2006 13:22:36 -0500

By Michael Perry

Self-regulation in food and beverage marketing is being exploited and
is failing to curb childhood obesity, research by a global obesity
taskforce presented on Tuesday has found.

The International Obesity Taskforce said some Internet sites that
attracted children with advertising games were being used to bypass
stricter advertising standards in traditional media, the 10th
International Congress on Obesity in Sydney heard.

The taskforce found that 85 percent of businesses advertising to
children on television also had interactive Web sites for them.

It said 12.2 million children had visited commercial Web sites
promoting food and beverages over a three-month monitoring period in

An analysis of this marketing found that food and beverage advertisers
paid lip service to advertising codes of conduct. It said some Web
sites pressure children to purchase before they played online games.

"Viral marketing downloads and links from 'advergames' to corporate
Web sites were against the spirit of the self-regulation system's
provisions," researchers at Britain's Middlesex University in said.

"While it is relatively easy to control the content of television and
print advertising, controlling the content on online advertising and
'advergames' ... is a lot more complex."

The taskforce has said an epidemic of obesity, now estimated at 1.5
billion people worldwide, has led to more type 2 diabetes in obese

"At the moment the need to protect children from commercial
exploitation was being largely overlooked by the food and advertising
industries," said Boyd Swinburn, president of the Australasian Society
for the Study of Obesity.

"We need to recognize that everyone in society has a responsibility to
ensure we provide healthy environments for children," Swinburn told


The week-long conference also heard that many children were "victims
of poor urban designs" that discourage outdoor activity.

"Many aspects of the physical environment present barriers to children
from being outside and directly contribute to their declining levels
of physical activity," said Dr Jo Salmon, Senior Research Fellow in
the School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences at Deakin University in
the Australian state of Victoria.

"Small changes to urban design such as age-appropriate playground
equipment ... could have a significant impact on overall activity
levels across the day," she told the conference.

Salmon said parental security and safety concerns that kept children
at home were also limiting the physical activities of children and
contributing to obesity.

She said her research found 70 percent of five- to six-year-olds and
80 percent of 10- to 12-year-olds exceeded the recommended two-hour
daily limit for Internet and television entertainment.

"Children who know their neighbors and have strong social networks
within their neighborhood are much more likely to be active," she said.

Copyright 2006 Reuters Limited.

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