"Obviously, the Internet has exploded since then, and computer games have also risen in popularity," she said. "So we don't know how well a television ban would work when children are spending an increasing amount of time online rather than watching TV. So it would be very hard to enforce an Internet ban, and the only way to tackle it would be how they're doing it in Quebec, which is to prohibit advertising websites for junk food during cartoons, or even on product packaging in stores. But if a 10-year-old is searching for 'Lucky Charms' on the Internet, that would be hard to police on its own."
Baylis says one policy tool that's being revisited in the U.S. is the voluntary agreement that some prominent food companies have signed to limit advertising to kids.
"There's been a lot of concern that this voluntary agreement isn't working," she said. "The FCC has considered stepping in and doing more formal regulation. Our research indicates that this might be the way to go. The folks on the other side of the debate are always saying: 'Don't go down that road. It's a dead-end. Absolute bans don't work and a voluntary approach to self-regulation is better.' Well, that's not true, and this research is more ammunition for the FCC."
Although the advertising lobby would like to deny that advertising to kids works, Baylis notes that about $11 billion per year is spent on advertising aimed at that audience.
"Fast food is one of the most highly advertised product categories, but what's interesting is the amount of discussion around having tighter regulations on advertising directed at children, or when countries look to impose a junk-food advertising ban," Baylis said.
|Contact: Phil Ciciora|
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign