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Study: Children are exposed to branding nearly every minute

"Marketing promotes values of consumerism and overconsumption and negatively affects children's wellbeing."

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By Chris Dyer via SWNS

Children are exposed to a brand nearly every minute according to a study that attached cameras to kids, to see what they were looking at.

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Researchers discovered that brand messages for unhealthy products may accentuate inequities for disadvantaged children.
(Blue Titan/Shutterstock)

Mass marketing targets children at school, in their homes and in stores more than 550 times over a 10-hour day, according to the findings.

Scientists attached cameras to 90 11 to 13-year-olds to find out what brands they were exposed to over two days.

Experts fitted the wearable automatic cameras to the children to make the shocking find.

Associate Professor Leah Watkins, from the marketing department of the University of Otago in New Zealand, said the results showed an urgent need to reduce the marketing leveled at kids.

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Links between poor children being exposed to more harmful brand advertising was another concerning aspect of the research, they discovered.

Prof Watkins added: “Children live in a highly commercialized world that bombards them with consumption messages"

“This is alarming given the high rates of obesity, alcohol, and gambling harm in socioeconomically deprived neighborhoods.

“It suggests marketing messages may accentuate inequities and place further pressure on those who are already disadvantaged.”

Researchers found the majority of the 554 marketing messages the children were exposed to happened in school - which came to 43 percent - or at home at 30 percent.

Shops accounted for 12 percent of the commercial messages the kids saw - mostly on brand labels that made up 46 percent, product packaging on 22 percent and commercial signs on 13 percent of the exposure in stores.

The researchers said the study raised concerns about the long-term ecological and social impact of constantly bombarding children with such messages. 

The authors wrote: "Marketing promotes values of consumerism and overconsumption and negatively affects children's wellbeing and psychological development. 

"The threat marketing poses to planetary health is just being realized. However, little is known about children's exposure to marketing at an aggregate level.

"Children from the most deprived households were exposed to significantly more harmful commodity brands than those from the least deprived households.

"This finding is concerning given the high rates of obesity, alcohol, and gambling harm in socioeconomically deprived neighborhoods, and suggests that marketing messages might accentuate inequities and place further pressure on individuals who are already disadvantaged.

"This study found that children are constantly exposed to marketing through multiple mediums and across all settings, including messages predominantly promoting unhealthy relative to healthy commodities."

The analysis found the most common products children saw were food and drinks, leading the scientists to call for marketing bans on unhealthy goods in a similar way to bans on tobacco ads.

Experts said not only do the results raise concerns about marketing’s role in promoting unhealthy products, but also in encouraging overconsumption.

Prof Watkins added: “One of the major threats to planetary health is overconsumption, and the current and continued increases in consumption are unsustainable.”

While she expected to see advertising for unhealthy products, she found the relative number of those messages in comparison to social and healthy food messages concerning, Prof Watkins said.

The United Nations has called on member states to reduce the level of commercial marketing by making areas free of marketing - such as schools - and to make sure there is a wider range of "pro-social" messages.

Prof Watkins said she hoped the research will encourage discussions about the policies needed to achieve this for the next generation.

The team plans to further investigate children’s exposure to marketing in schools, as this is where a large amount of marketing was seen by the children.

A pilot study using software to track children’s online exposure to marketing is also underway.

The findings were published in The Lancet Planetary Health.

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