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Food Companies Find a Way To Your Children Via the Internet

A new 98-page report from the Center for Digital Democracy is exposing just how marketers of junk food are aggressively invading your children’s digital spaces.

Just as the technology becomes increasingly sophisticated, so are the food and beverage companies, using outrageously invasive tactics to market to kids including:

  • Wendy’s one of the first to limit transfats in their foods, using viral videos featuring a girl ordering her first 99-cent cheeseburger and Frosty on YouTube
  • Urging kids to text message via their cell phones for a free McFlurry coupon from McDonalds
  • Kelloggs promotion of URLs on cereal packages to invite kids online to give their cell phone numbers to play a trivia game
  • Coca-Cola introduction of “My Coke Rewards” placing codes on products allowing children to access a site and enter personal information for rewards such as ring tones for their cell phones.

As one marketer says in the report, “the targeting we can do is phenomenal.” It’s enough to make you furious, and it’s illegal. The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act requires marketers seek permission from parents before collecting any information on children under the age of 12.

Children are spending less time building needed bone mass through exercise while some schools are even banning recess. Instead our young are spending more time on-line, they are increasingly exposed to these seamless messages that blend social interaction, entertainment and marketing to encourage poor food choices and obesity.

Now at epidemic proportions among young people, it’s estimated 2 million teenagers have a pre-diabetic condition linked to obesity. In my upcoming book, “GenXL,” I review the variables that affect this phenomena.

The Center will ask the Federal Trade Commission to investigate how food companies are profiling children online with the purpose of marketing to them.

CNET News.com May 17, 2007

Center for Digital Democracy Free Full PDF Reports