As a parent, you may want to think twice the next time your child turns on the computer or TV to watch their favorite show. Companies looking to sell their products are finding ways into all mainstream media, advertising to children and adolescents in ways previous generations were never exposed to. The Internet, TV, radio, billboards and food packages have all become fair game to try to reel in children to rake in the cash.

 After attending the ‘Healthier Nutrition for Kids- An Action Plan’ Conference, I was also interested to learn that the reason companies target children is because they can easily persuade their parents to buy products easier than if the company just targeted the parents. The way to dad’s heart may be food but the way to mom’s heart (and wallet) is her kids. However, that just adds to the consumerism and junk food consumption for the growing overweight and obese young population in Manitoba and Canada. If we want to see a healthier population, we need to limit the amount of advertising of unhealthy food exposed to our children. Brian Cook, from Toronto Public Health, explained the Canadian Children’s Food & Beverage Advertising Initiative in 2008 tried to do that by implementing guidelines to not direct ads at children under the age of 13 and by not using characters to sell products to children. Unfortunately, these companies found loopholes by keeping their own characters to sell products and not adding new ones and also by continuing to advertising on school fundraisers, displays, and educational programs.

 So how do we change the junk food effect on kids? By bringing in healthy breakfasts, snacks and lunches into schools starting at a young age. Get kids to help prepare the meals and snacks and communicate with the school/daycare about what they like. Send healthy snacks with the kids to school and eat healthier meals together at home. These actions can help jump-start your kids to living healthier, happier lives and a brighter future.