A Decade of Tech, Part 9

What could be more technical than Analytics, one of the forces by which society is ruled? Like so many other branches of science, Analytics can be good or bad. From a 2015 news story,​ how does this sound?

[B]rands can identify those children most reactive to food and drink marketing and target them specifically with their Facebook advertisements.

The Irish Heart Foundation published a report called “Who’s Feeding the Kids Online?” that outlined the methods used by advertisers, on behalf of manufacturers, to fly under parental radar and spread the junk food gospel. Did it work? You bet. For instance, journalist Danny Gridley pointed to “a French Coca-Cola campaign, where Facebook ads accounted for 2 percent of marketing cost but 27 percent of the increase in sales.” The writer remarked, “All we can hope is that Facebook can find a way to use its powers for good and not evil.”

A 2018 article​ also pointed a finger at Facebook, as having been “embroiled in controversy with Cambridge Analytica, and cited modern technology in general as having developed “a bad habit of letting people down.” A powerful influencer named Martha Lane Fox who sits on the boards of several media giants spoke at an industry conference where she urged businesses to take more responsibility for considering unintended consequences and especially for practicing more transparency.

At the time, the coalition of technology and advertising was under fire for contributing to childhood obesity, and the idea of placing restrictions on the junk food and sugar-sweetened beverage industries was being seriously discussed. “Make responsible tech the new normal,” was the phrase that writer Michaela Jefferson chose for the piece’s title — even if that meant implementing some degree of regulation.

Characterizing childhood obesity epidemic as public health epidemic, a program was designed​ to evaluate the importance of caregivers, especially parents, and also to confront the problem of parents being less engaged during the summer, and of school not being in session. And since kids are heavily involved with texting, social media and other technology anyway, why not take advantage of it?

Importantly, the potential for such technology approaches to serve as theoretically sound behavior change intervention strategies, either singularly or as part of a multi-component approach, for self-monitoring with immediate feedback, as well as an opportunity for support, behavioral nudging, and positive reinforcement, has rapidly emerged.

The experimental program seems to be kind of a virtual camp, encouraging parents to engage their children in the same type of nutrition, education, recreation, and fitness program they would partake in if away at an actual camp. Parents liked the “quick and easy access to healthy habit suggestions” and the non-invasive nature of text messaging. One takeaway was that “this work is critical for informing changes to technology-based caregiver engagement strategies to be tested in future interventions.”

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Facebook And Childhood Obesity Linked In Latest Report,” TheDailyMeal.com, 06/16/16 ​
Source: “Martha Lane Fox: ‘We’re trying to make responsible tech the new normal’,” The-Media-Leader.com, 07/19/18
Source: “Feasibility and acceptability of technology-based caregiver engagement strategies delivered in a summertime childhood obesity prevention intervention: results from an internal pilot of the Camp NERF (Nutrition, Education, Recreation, and Fitness) study,” BiomedCentral.com, 09/27/18
Image by fsse8info/CC BY-SA 2.0

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About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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