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Limiting kids’ exposure to food marketing

It’s important to think about how marketing can affect your food choices. Children, in particular, need extra help to protect them from marketing’s influence on their food choices.

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Kids are susceptible to food marketing

It is important to limit kids’ exposure to marketing because they are particularly vulnerable to marketing techniques.

Kids are susceptible to marketing because:

  • they are a highly targeted market
    • Many marketing strategies are meant to appeal specifically to kids, like:
      • using popular cartoon characters on food products
      • putting food and drinks or brands into online games or viral videos
      • offering toys or prizes when you buy food products and fast food meals
  • they are an easy-to-reach audience
    • They see many ads throughout the day:
      • at school
      • in sports arenas
      • in stores and shopping centres
      • on electronic devices like cell phones and tablets
  • of their developmental stage
    • Kids tend to:
      • be more impulsive
      • have a strong desire to fit in
      • prefer immediate gratification
      • be more susceptible to peer influence
      • have less ability to understand the purpose of marketing
      • have less ability to notice when they are being targeted by marketing, especially when viewing newer forms of advertising such as those on social media

Benefits of limiting kids’ exposure to food marketing

Marketing influences our food preferences and choices. Most foods advertised to kids are highly processed foods that contribute excess sodium, sugars or saturated fat to their diets.

This poses a risk as kids are at a period where they are developing lifelong eating habits. It is important for growth and development that they choose and eat healthy foods.

Parents and caregivers are responsible for many of their child’s food choices. However, it can be hard to compete with the ads their kids are exposed to. Creating a food environment where children are not constantly exposed to marketing can help support kids in making healthy choices.

How to limit kids’ exposure to food marketing

There are many different ways you can limit your kids’ exposure to marketing.

Limit screen time

This includes how much time kids spend:

  • watching TV
  • using electronic devices

These devices contribute greatly to the number of ads kids see in a day.

Reduce the risk of being targeted for online marketing

Talk to kids about limiting what information they disclose on the internet. Tell them how that information can be used to send them targeted ads. Targeted ads are part of behavioural advertising.

Think outside the home

Kids are exposed to marketing in many places beyond the TV and internet. Their food choices can also be influenced by :

  • events put on by food and beverage companies at parks, malls or movie theatres
  • materials branded by food companies that are:
    • offered at schools
    • used in classroom lessons

Encourage your kids’ school to use classroom materials that don’t advertise highly processed foods and beverages.

Educate your kids

Remember to educate your kids about marketing. You can:

  • talk with them about marketing
  • teach them how to recognize marketing techniques
  • show them how you choose foods without looking at ads, for example, by using the food label

Visit the Food guide for life for tips to:

  • Be aware of food marketing at home
  • Be aware of food marketing when eating out

Further reading

Date modified: 2019-01-14