age 11, which means that children and youth aged 12 and older receive no special protection from food marketing. But Monifa Bandele of MomsRising said the need to include older children in self-regulation initiatives is raised repeatedly in feedback from the organization’s members. Feedback from members on middle school children, in particular, indicated that they are more vulnerable to marketing than their younger and older counterparts.
Jennifer Harris of the Rudd Center pointed out that younger children often watch programming aimed at older groups, which exposes them to ads for unhealthy foods that are not subject to self-regulation. Children may not be more than 35 percent of the audience for this programming, but they still can gain considerable exposure to food marketing by watching it.
Children aged 12-14 are exposed to more food ads than any other group of children and youth, observed Harris. They also have their own money and can go to stores or fast-food restaurants to buy unhealthy products. A major policy change Harris advocates is including 12- to 14-year-olds in the CFBAI pledges.
As an example of a campaign that crosses the 11-12 age boundary, Dietz mentioned the CDC-sponsored VERB™ campaign, which focused on 9- to 13-year-olds. This is a segment of the population that still has the capacity to change its behavior in response to positive messages, he noted. Public health campaigns need to consider developmental stages, he said, not just chronological age.
Kolish did not foresee including 12- to 14-year-olds in self-regulation initiatives in the immediate future. As children grow older, they have rights and responsibilities that younger children do not. Also, efforts directed at children younger than 11 have an effect on older children who are not among the audiences covered by self-regulation. Kolish does not think food companies would support an extension above age 11 at present.
Heather Rubin of The Walt Disney Company said the company seeks to motivate everyone it reaches to make healthier choices. Disney does make an effort to limit exposure to food ads among children older than 12, although change is inevitably an iterative process. Continued dialogue will help the company better understand the issues affecting the audiences it reaches.
Finally, Cathy Polley, Food Marketing Institute (FMI), observed that much of what happens in supermarkets applies to a wide range of ages. For example, 12-14 is an ideal age group for cooking classes because that is when many children start to get involved in the kitchen.
Several workshop participants spoke about the need for educational campaigns to build the media literacy of parents and children regarding food marketing. Awareness of the vast efforts of the media to market