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Hidden Digital Ads Push Children to Eat Fatty Food, warn Health Experts

Overweight and obese children are likely to stay obese into adulthood and more likely to develop chronic illnesses at a younger age

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According to the World Health Organization, children in Europe are the target of hidden digital advertising and marketing promoting fatty, sugary and salty foods that are damaging their health and adding to an obesity problem. VOA
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London, November 5, 2016: Children in Europe are bombarded with hidden digital advertising and marketing promoting fatty, sugary and salty foods that is damaging their health and adding to the region’s obesity problem, World Health Organization experts said on Friday.

The researchers called for policymakers to do more to protect children from junk food advertising messages on networking sites, games — known as “advergames” — and other social media.

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“Our governments have given the prevention of childhood obesity the highest political priority, [yet] we consistently find that children — our most vulnerable group — are exposed to countless numbers of hidden digital marketing techniques promoting foods high in fat, sugar and salt,” said Zsuzsanna Jakab, the WHO’s regional director for Europe.

Parents are unaware

She said in the absence of effective regulation of digital media in many countries, children are increasingly exposed to persuasive, individually tailored marketing techniques that parents may underestimate, or be unaware of.

“Often, parents do not see the same advertisements, nor do they observe the online activities of their children; many therefore underestimate the scale of the problem,” said the WHO.

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About two-thirds of children who are overweight before puberty will be overweight in early adulthood, and an estimated 25 percent of school-aged children in Europe are already overweight or obese, said the report.

Overweight and obese children are likely to stay obese into adulthood and more likely to develop chronic illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer at a younger age.

Unhealthy foods promoted

Gauden Galea, a WHO Europe expert on chronic disease and health promotion, said allowing advertisers and the food industry to target children like this could have “huge health and economic consequences.”

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The WHO Europe report said that since there is little effective regulation or control over of digital marketing, children are often exposed to powerful and targeted online marketing via digital platforms that collect personal data.

Digital marketing can engage children in emotional, entertaining experiences and encourage them to share these experiences with their friends, it said, describing this as “a dubious cocktail when used to promote unhealthy foods.” (VOA)

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Gaming Disorder to be Recognized as an Health Issue Soon

WHO may soon recognize Gaming Disorder as a Mental Health condition due to its severe impact on a person's mental health.

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WHO may add gaming disorder as a mental health condition
WHO may add gaming disorder as a mental health condition. wikimedia common
  • WHO is ready to recognize Gaming Disorder as a serious mental health issue.
  • Gaming disorder means, giving utmost importance to video games while ignoring other aspects of life.
  • Countries like China and Korea have already banned internet and gaming due to their harmful effects.

The World Health Organization is set to recognize gaming disorder as a serious mental health issue.

In its 11th International Classification of Disease, a diagnostic manual to be published next year, the U.N. health agency defines gaming disorder as a “persistent or recurrent” disorder that can cause “significant impairment” to the gamer’s life, including to family, education, work and friends.

The addiction to gaming can lead to severe mental heath conditions. Pixabay
The addiction to gaming can lead to severe mental heath conditions. Pixabay

The agency says the disorder is characterized by giving increasing priority to gaming, online and offline, over other aspects of everyday life.

Gregory Hartl, a WHO spokesman, told CNN that the entry on the disorder “includes only a clinical description and not prevention and treatment options.”

According to a report released in 2016 by the gaming industry, 63 percent of U.S. households include a gamer who, on average, has been playing video games for 13 years.

The increasing popularity of video gaming became evident in the past three years when 50 U.S. colleges established varsity gaming teams, with scholarships, coaches and game analysts.

However, some countries, such as China and South Korea already consider the internet and gaming to be addictions and have created boot-camplike treatment facilities. VOA