As a child of the '60s and early '70s, I remember watching television and being inundated with commercials for sugary cereals, candies and soft drinks. Then, suddenly, the FTC starting cracking down on this type of advertising and it all but disappeared. Recently, I was alarmed and saddened to read an article in the Wall Street Journal entitled "Child's Play: Food Makers Hook Kids on Mobile Games." U.S. food companies are embedding their products (mostly unhealthy, sugary snacks) in simple and enticing games for touch-screen phones and tablets. To quote an executive at a snack foods company in New Jersey, "the apps are certainly targeted at kids." With childhood obesity on the rise, it is time for all of us -- food manufacturers, parents and children -- to get smart and take action! The WSJ piece states that an app called Cookie Dough Bites Factory has been downloaded more than three million times. That is outrageous. Even if just twenty percent of the kids that download the app are getting their parents to buy Cookie Dough Bites, that's a lot of UNHEALTHY Bites being eaten by our children.
What to do? I think the FTC needs to come in and regulate advertising on mobile games like they do with commercials on television. In 2006, large food companies formed the Children's Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative, part of the Council of Better Business Bureau, which encouraged voluntary commitments to advertising healthier food to children. Unfortunately, in the past six months, sixteen large food companies, including Kraft, Wrigley and Mars, have shown increased interest in mobile marketing. I am a big proponent of the First Amendment, but feel in this instance, there should be some guidelines to help parents determine the benefits (or healthfulness) of some of these apps and the foods (mostly snacks) they promote.
We as parents have a duty and obligation to guide, teach and nurture our children. As the childhood obesity epidemic continues to rise -- nearly one in five Americans between the age of 2 and 19 are overweight -- the time is NOW for parents to educate themselves and their children on living a healthful life. As a father of 3-year-old girls, I am cognizant of the allure of my iPhone and iPad and have loaded both with lots of different, fun, engaging and educational games. I am definitely not one of the three million that has downloaded Cookie Dough Bites Factory. There is nothing educational about this app. Rather, it serves as a very deceptive way of trying to entice children to get their parents to buy sugary snacks. Having never eaten a Cookie Dough Bite, I can't speak to the taste or appeal. I can speak to the outrageously unhealthy nutritional facts: One 80 gram container has 380 calories, 18 grams of fat (10 grams of which are saturated) 38 grams of sugar and virtually no nutritional value.
We don't let our children play with matches because of the potential danger. Take control of what your children eat and drink. Failure to do so in my opinion is criminal. e owe it to them to show them the way, lead by example and live long, healthy and productive lives.