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Many people believe that unhealthy food should not be allowed to be advertised to children. To what extent do you agree? (no more than 500 words)
The increased over-consumption of ‘junk food’ and unhealthy treats is contributing to a number of health risks across the globe. A huge proportion of our youngest generation is overweight by the time they reach 5 years of age. In addition to obesity, a junk food diet can also lead to poor nutrition, diabetes and dental problems. In short, junk food consumption can lead to serious health problems and has substantial economic and social impact. While some people believe advertising is a huge contributor to the problem, others see it as a parent's responsibility to monitor their children's diets. In this essay I argue that addressing both issues is needed.
Children today are exposed to a variety of different media, and much of their day involves using a tablet, computer, TV and games. Children therefore encounter hundreds, even thousands of advertisements every day. There is a lot of evidence to suggest that this advertising has a direct effect on children’s health.
Children remember ads very easily as their young minds absorb new information extremely quickly. In fact, many advertisements aimed at children are designed to look like a cartoon or children's TV program. Children cannot tell the difference between this kind of advertising and normal programming. Marketers and advertisers exploit this fact in order to encourage children to ask for and recognise their products. They even use the term ‘pester power’ to describe this ability that children have to influence their parent's purchasing decisions.
When we watch images of delicious and beautifully prepared food or a refreshing drink on TV or online, it stimulates a response in our brain as if the food were really there in front of us. This response can cause us to feel hungry and reach for a snack. If children are watching these kinds of images on TV, they will complain of feeling hungry. In addition to this, children's willpower is not sufficiently developed for them to resist. It just takes a few extra calories each day to lead to a weight problem later on.
Despite these facts, it is up to parents to teach their children what it means to have a healthy diet and to make good food choices. The onus is ultimately on the caregiver to say ‘No’ when children ask for unhealthy snacks; and not to buy them in the first place.
In conclusion, I feel that a combined approach of i) reducing the amount of advertising to which children are exposed; and ii) encouraging parents to say 'No' to their children, is what is needed to tackle this global problem.