This post initiates a look at what technology has been doing in relation to childhood obesity, for better or worse, over the last 10 years or so. Actually, let’s start a little further back with a 2007 article from Bloomberg.com, titled “Is Online Marketing Making Kids Obese?”
After examining a report from the Center for Digital Democracy and American University, journalist Catherine Holahan was not pleased with what she had seen. It was all about how low-nutrient food (and let’s just go ahead and call this stuff junk food) is “marketed online to kids and teens using everything from avatars in virtual worlds to instant-messaging chat tools, and from Web sweepstakes to interactive games.”
Professional observers had already begun to suspect that such tactics contributed to diet-related health problems, including obesity, among children. In other words: Technology = bad.
Their wicked ways
Junk food manufacturers were strategizing like history’s most prominent military commanders. The reincarnations of Alexander the Great, Attila the Hun, William the Conqueror, Napoleon, and George Patton were all aiming their best efforts at inducing children (and adults) to consume tons of worthless crap. The report passed along its deplorable findings to the Federal Trade Commission with the hope of improving the situation:
The FTC is currently conducting a survey of food marketing to children, across a variety of media. As part of the regulator’s study, it is demanding that 44 food-and-beverage manufacturers, distributors, and marketers disclose how they advertise to children.
The promotional techniques included catchy songs, representation by cute cartoon characters, the inclusion of toys with the products, and subtle brainwashing to cultivate a sense of FOMO (fear of missing out) in the children of America and the world. Kathryn Montgomery, the author of the appalling report, told the press,
[A]dvertisers know food, like toys, is an area where kids have both purchasing power and sway over their parents’ decisions… We shouldn’t be having debates with our kids in the aisles of grocery stores and every parent I know has had to do that.
Holahan noted the burgeoning trend of advertisers using social media to encourage children to add specific products and brands as “friends” and then introduce those fake friends to their online human friends. Back in 2007, MySpace was a hugely popular networking site where Burger King’s mascot pulled at least 150,000 “friends.” The researcher went into nauseating detail about the other methods of indoctrination employed by corporations to snag children’s attention and lead them into ever-increasing consumption of junk.
Some companies took the trouble to publicly cleanse themselves of sinister motivations, and declare their allegiance to principles of basic decency, empathy, concern, care, respect, health, and bla-bla-bla. They pledged to make heroic efforts toward self-regulation, which sounded just as ludicrous then as it still does at the present time.
But wait… For much more encouraging news about what technology is accomplishing nowadays, please visit Dr. Pretlow’s site, BrainWeighve.
Your responses and feedback are welcome!
Source: “Is Online Marketing Making Kids Obese?,” Bloomberg.com, 05/17/07
Image by Jiposhy.com/CC BY-SA 2.0