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How do junk food adverts affect your children? – new OpenLearn course gives us the facts

The Open University has launched a free OpenLearn course, which explores children’s food, marketing, eating and health in the context of their rights. Children and young people: food and food marketingasks what the factors are that influence the foods that children eat – is it children’s or parents’ choices? Family or cultural influences? Or the wider food environment?

Childhood obesity has reached a record high, with one in 3 children leaving primary school overweight or obese. Factors that cause this include the way food is produced and processed; environments that don’t support physical activity; and the widespread advertisement of unhealthy foods in the media, shops and local community.

Even though the government has introduced some rules that try to reduce marketing of junk food to children and young people, on TV and the internet, many loopholes are missed. Mobile phones and social media now play a big role in children’s lives. Junk food marketers know how to target children through their favourite sites, games, media and activities online – targeting children via their interests, and using fun and entertainment to appeal to them.

VegPower is a recent campaign launched by the Food Foundation and ITV, which seeks to inspire kids, support parents and encourage everyone to enjoy more veg – through fun and surprise. It positions veg as the enemy, leading with the strapline ‘Eat them to defeat them’.

Anna Taylor from the Food Foundation features on this OpenLearn course – she talks about the Food Foundation’s aims to change policy and public understanding about how our food is affected by entire food systems rather than by individual choices.

One of the food systems that powerfully affect what people think and feel about food is how it’s marketed. Currently most food marketing is for food and drink that isn’t healthy. This course explains how this influences children, and why governments should choose to act.

Dr Mimi Tatlow-Golden, Lecturer in Developmental Psychology and Childhood commented

“Tackling the food environment our children are growing up in is crucial if we’re to create a world in which children can realise their right to health. Currently we leave it up to individual children and parents, to fight the might of global industries, marketers and media every day, on every trip to the shops, or each walk home from school. That just isn’t a fair fight.

This OpenLearn course introduces the key ideas behind what affects children’s food preferences, what local and national governments can do, and why food marketing and promotion needs to be addressed. We owe it to our children to take this on.”

Find out more

Study the OpenLearn course, Children and young people: food and food marketing

Watch Britain’s Fat Fight with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall on BBC iPlayer

Discover other free courses at OpenLearn

About Author

Hannah is part of the Media Relations Team at The Open University, working with the Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies. With experience both agency and in-house, Hannah has worked on campaigns for a number of large corporate companies and brands, including RBS, NatWest, Travelodge, Audible, AA and the Royal Academy of Dance. She has completed a Masters in Publishing Studies from Oxford Brookes and is currently studying towards a DipHE in Computer, IT and Design. In her free time she enjoys photography, reading and going to the theatre.

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