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Consumers want regulation of SMS, email, web & pay TV marketing to kids

Sunday 19 July, 2009

Australian consumers want the government to stamp out the many avenues used by junk food companies to reach children such as games on websites, email promotions, text messages and pay TV, according to Jane Martin, Senior Policy Adviser for the Obesity Policy Coalition.

"Fearing greater restriction of advertising on free to air TV, junk food companies are increasingly looking to other, less regulated, avenues to promote unhealthy products to children. Our research shows there is overwhelming support for the government to also crack down on these forms of marketing.

"91% of consumers want the government to regulate the use of games or competitions on websites which promote junk food to children. Many companies are using the premise of education or game playing to lure children to their sites so they can promote their products," said Ms Martin.

Consumers also felt very strongly about the use of SMS or email by junk food marketers to contact children who provided their details, with 96% calling for the government to regulate the practice and 81% in favour of a complete ban.

"Unhealthy food marketing often involves competitions that require children to enter their mobile phone number or email address, this gives promoters carte blanche to bombard children with messages. Considering the massive health problems that lay in wait for the 25% of children who are overweight and obese, it is totally unacceptable for companies to prey on our kids in this way," said Ms Martin.

Junk food advertising on pay or subscription television channels, particularly those popular with children, is largely unregulated. However, 87% of consumers want the government to take action to regulate junk food advertising in this medium.

Key findings

  • 91% of consumers are in favour of the government regulating games and competitions on websites that promote unhealthy food to children.
  • 96% of respondents want the government to regulate the use of SMS or email by junk food companies to contact children with 81% stating the practice should be stopped altogether.
  • In regard to advertising in children's magazines, 95% of consumers want the government to regulate this practice.
  • 87% of consumers want the government to regulate junk food advertising to children on pay TV.

Examples of websites targeting children

About the survey

In December 2008, the Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer, Cancer Council Victoria, undertook a study of 800 adult consumers, who were the main grocery buyers across all Australian states and territories, to understand consumer acceptability of various obesity prevention policy initiatives.

About the Obesity Policy Coalition

The Obesity Policy Coalition is a group of leading public health agencies who are concerned about the escalating levels of overweight and obesity, particularly in children.

The Obesity Policy Coalition partners include Diabetes Australia Victoria, Cancer Council Victoria, Victorian Health Promotion Foundation (VicHealth) and the World Health Collaborating Centre for Obesity Prevention at Deakin University.