by Mike Masnick

No, Online Marketing Isn't Making Your Kids Fat

from the I-don't-think-that's-how-it-works... dept

For years, we've been hearing all sorts of stories blaming technology for making kids fat, whether it's TV, video games, sitting around on the internet or not getting enough sleep because they're playing with gadgets all night. Of course, almost all of those are anecdotal reports based on what people think is the reason for childhood obesity. When you look at the actual research, it shows that there's simply no connection between technology and fat kids. Of course, that doesn't make for a good headline... so, again, we get stories about obese kids, where technology is to blame. This time it's even more ridiculous than usual. While you can sort of understand the reasoning for the other claims, the latest is that online marketing is making our kids fat. Apparently, the reason our kids are so fat (or so the claim goes) is because unhealthy foods are being advertised to kids via online marketing. The folks making this claim are now asking the FTC to step in and stop such ads. Of course, this ignores the fact that it's still the parents who are buying the food for the kids and its still the kids who are eating the food. The article quotes a mother who complains that it's difficult to not let her kids eat at McDonalds more than twice a month -- though, she doesn't explain why she can't just refuse to take them there. Instead, she says how difficult it is to explain that McDonalds is unhealthy. Why? That part isn't explained. It's certainly true that these brands focus some advertisements towards kids, but that's no excuse for not teaching kids the importance of healthy eating.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Chronno S. Trigger, May 17th, 2007 @ 3:25pm


    Why do you have to explain to the kid that it's unhealthy? Just tell him NO. It's not hard. It's only two little letters.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 17th, 2007 @ 3:33pm

    Poor kids

    Oh no! Now the sanctity of the Internet has bombarded our poor darlings with unhealthy ads! When will the madness end?! I say we blind all the children in America to save their minds! Won't someone PLEASE think of the children?!?!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    TheDock22, May 17th, 2007 @ 3:37pm

    Re: Why?

    I'm guessing you do not have children...have you ever tried to tell a 3 year old "No" in the middle of a grocery store? Be prepared for an ugly scene...

    In the end though, parents do not approach a healthy lifestyle right. You could eat at McDonald's once a week and with proper exercise be perfectly fine. Substituting good eating habits for a balanced life (exercise, reading, food, etc.) is not going to make you all that much healthier.

    Beside, my mom had an easy time with it. Every Saturday we would plan our meals for the week, including McDonald's if we wanted to go that week. That way there was no argument out in public of what to eat, we all knew what was on the menu.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Beefcake 6' 195 lb, May 17th, 2007 @ 3:37pm

    Why are we so fat?

    Lately I've been toying with the theory that a big part of it is because we drum it into our own heads from early childhood to "eat everything on your plate". It's practically our national motto. Just because it's on a plate in front of us doesn't mean we have to eat it all. It's like a national eating disorder or something.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    joe, May 17th, 2007 @ 4:09pm

    Re: Re: Why?

    I am a parent. I can say no in the store. In fact I say no about 500 times every time I take my daughter shopping. If you can't say no and make it stick you are a bad parent.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    T.J., May 17th, 2007 @ 4:10pm


    First of all I do have some issues with your article. Yes, technology can aid kids by helping them be lazy and fat, that's common sense. When kids have video games/computers/internet/TV available, they are obviously less inclined to play outside due to the other possible sources of entertainment available.

    However, it is ultimately up to the parents to stop being such weenies when it comes to parenting their kids. Make your children go outside, limit their TV/video game time, don't buy them that Reese's and don't take them to McDonalds, and for god sakes don't be afraid to give 'em a bump on their rump for doing something wrong (DON'T abuse them, theres a difference).

    I think all this technology is making for lazy parents, who are to busy on their blackberry or cell phone or checking e-mail or online bank statements to give a darn what their kids are doing. Instead of spending their time parenting, they are supporting these groups that do mass parenting for the whole country. We all know I want to be parented and censored still as an adult (sigh).

    Kind of a sloppy post but all in all can technology and online advertising make your kids fat? Yes, but it's your fault for allowing these newfangled vices to influence them, and ultimately you, in your decision making.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    T.J., May 17th, 2007 @ 4:11pm

    Re: Why are we so fat?

    Americans waste enough food in a day to feed 100,000 people for a year. Maybe the solution is putting less on the plate to begin with?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Cas, May 17th, 2007 @ 4:26pm

    Re: Re: Why?

    I'm guessing you do not have children...have you ever tried to tell a 3 year old "No" in the middle of a grocery store? Be prepared for an ugly scene...

    You're right, Doc. And that's why advertising is done the way it is. It's a well documented fact that kids brains absorb like a sponge in the years from infancy to childhood. Advertisers are aware of this and use every possible means to filter their products in. Cartoon characters and clowns hawk and peddle Happy Meals with plastic crack contained therein. The idea is to get them hooked early. This strategy also enables them to recruit the most inexpensive and unrelenting soldier to persuade parents everywhere...A three year old.

    This strategy works all the way through their target's teenage years. And although I do agree with Mike in that parents ultimately have the ability and responsibility to make better choices about what their kids eat, he must also consider that we don't allow cigarette ads on television for the very same reason.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. icon
    Anonymous Coward (profile), May 17th, 2007 @ 4:42pm

    If you don't want your kids to eat McDonald's put Fast Food Nation in your Netflix que.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Beefcake, May 17th, 2007 @ 4:58pm

    Re: Re: Why are we so fat?

    I think the fact that Americans take more than what we need is true of just about everything, not just food. But since we can't actually ship our excess to the starving kids in Africa, why oh why must it go down our throats? I'm not arguing the greed point, just saying "stop guilting ourselves into obesity" about it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    UniBoy, May 17th, 2007 @ 5:19pm


    I think obesity is a symptom of unhappiness. Kids will follow their parents examples and habits in this area.

    Solving the weight problem among kids should start with solving the weight problem among their parents. Kids will follow good examples as well as bad ones.

    Not that all hefty kids have fat parents or that all fat parents necessarilly set a bad example. I'm speaking in generalities, that I observe to be *generally* true.

    In any event, I sure don't buy it has anything to do with technology.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Anonymous Poster, May 17th, 2007 @ 6:01pm

    Some parents can be complete imbeciles...and proof that some people just shouldn't be parents.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Wolf0579, May 17th, 2007 @ 7:29pm

    You must take an exam or two to get a driving license. There is no such requirement to have children. We haven't exactly been breeding for intelligence during the last 100 years.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    B, May 17th, 2007 @ 9:08pm


    I'm sick of this. If it isn't one thing, it's the next.
    Parents are making the government do the parenting nowadays. It's all the blame game until someone else decides to fix your own problems. It's true that advertisements are becoming more malicious and relentless, but parents are also letting it happen. Forcing the government to take action isn't the way to solve it either. Turning the TV or computer off is one way. I know someone who lets her daughter push her around. When she tells her daughter to turn the TV off, her daughter either ignores her or yells at her. Her daughter is fourteen. I know that if I would have done something like that when I was fourteen, my dad would have smacked me (not saying violence is the only solution, it's just my personal example).
    I would say that obesity has nothing to do with technology. It's the parent's own fault if they allow their child access to technology. It's not technology's fault. It's being used as a scapegoat.
    And I would agree that advertisements relentlessly attack. My own son calls every fast food restaurant "McDonald's" even if it's an Arby's or Burger King. It reminds me of the Kleenex complex. Instead of identifying it as a tissue (fast food restaurant), my child calls it a Kleenex (McDonald's).
    However, in the end I believe it is still the parent's fault to what the child is subjected to.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Cawwot, May 17th, 2007 @ 9:13pm

    Wow. just wow

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    Dalane, May 18th, 2007 @ 5:20am


    Are you suggesting that as adults and parents in America we should take responsibility for our own actions? I mean are you serious it is my own fault that I have raise my child up to get his own way by my lack of action? How absurd to think that we should exept the consequences of our actions, I have been taught my whole life it is always someone else’s fault.
    My parents didn’t tolerate this kind of behavior and we didn’t do it, but we allow our children to do it and they do. I have a three year old son and he is very active, it requires my wife and I to disciple he continuously, even when we do not feel like it. He does on occasion through a fit in the store, and it is embarrassing, but he still does not get what he wants. The point is that as his parent it is my responsibility to teach him right from wrong, and that includes what he learn from watching me.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    Chronno S. Trigger, May 18th, 2007 @ 5:25am

    Re: Re: Re: Why?

    That is another reason why you should not let your child watch TV at that young of an age.


    I'm Not a parent, but that's obvious even to me. If you have a child then TAKE CARE OF IT. I'm sick of these damn parent wannabes that just don't care enough to put the effort into raising their children.

    Oh and on the "ugly scene" caused by a three year old I see people saying no to young children an (Shocker) there is no ugly scene, so it can be done. And if there is an scene (I have seen that too and ignored it for the sake of the parent) then you shouldn't feel bad about it. If someone complains then let them know that they obviously don't know the first thing about raising a child.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    James, May 18th, 2007 @ 7:37am

    Its not the ads...

    ...dammit will someone PLEASE stop leaving the ketchup near the wii controller and the dvd player they look too much like snacks.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    Pitabred, May 18th, 2007 @ 8:01am

    Re: Re: Why?

    And when my parents told me no in the grocery store, if I made a scene they just bought what they had (they went through the essential aisles first, where there aren't as many kid things. Baking aisle, veggies/fruits and so on.), and we went home and I didn't get dessert that night. Kids understand consequences, and if you let them know that making a scene is unacceptable, they won't.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    SomePerson, May 18th, 2007 @ 11:24am

    Bad parenting is the ONLY problem

    I let my young child watch certain educational TV programs. However, I do NOT use the TV as a babysitter. I don't plant her in front of it and go do something else. I watch the show with her. They are all shows I have recorded on the DVR. And when it's time for a commercial break, I FF through a 5 minute block of commercials in 2 seconds.

    Technology is GREAT and I too am sick of lazy parents blaming TV and technology on their kids being fat. Here, I am using technology to be sure my kid CAN'T see those awful commercials, peddling unhealthy crap to my kid. The DVR is the greatest tool a parent could ever have. You want to know something... My child, who is two years old now, doesn't even know what McDonald's is. She's never seen a McDonald's commercial in her life. We've never taken her to one. I will NEVER have to hear my kid whining and begging to take her to the most disgusting "restaurant" in the world. And it's all because I used TECHNOLOGY to block all the Mcdonald's ads. And I'm not afraid to say NO! Tantrums in the grocery store? Sure, they happen. There's no reason to "give in" just to shut the kid up. If you're not prepared to deal with a screaming toddler at the store...please don't have kids.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    TheDock22, May 18th, 2007 @ 2:14pm


    The people who have children in this forum, you need to find a correct balance between technology and discipline. MANY of you have the right idea and can control your children just fine. And I do not see a single person complaining that their child is getting fat from internet ads. Power to you!

    Children getting the idea for McDonald's grease is usually from tv and NOT the Internet in my opinion, which is why this whole discussion of the evils of the Internet is silly.

    And for you that do not have children on this forum, SHUT UP!! You have NO clue what it is like to raise a child. You can be perfect and discipline them without violence, but there are always fights and embarrassing scenes. Just because you do not REMEMBER Pitching a fit when you were 2 or 3, doesn't mean you didn't!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. identicon
    Meg, May 22nd, 2007 @ 5:40pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Why?

    If you do not have kids, you can not debate this topic. Sometimes parents NEED to quiet the child down. TV is a great way. Buy DVDs if you don't want your kids watching the commercials. It is your own fault if your kids get fat.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. identicon
    TB, Jun 22nd, 2007 @ 1:33am


    Right, im a kid, i eat crap, as do most kids, at the moment i am doing coursework on are young children eating unhealthily...and iv done a survey on who eats a healthy balanced diet and no one has said they think they do, yet none of those are over weight, EXCERCISE is the answer, not computer games or ps2s etc, yeah kids want macdonalds because its seen as something you shouldnt have, therefore they want it more. You cant blame technology coz as a kid i can happily say i go on the computer a lot, yet im not obese or over weight. get ya kid on the road with their friends, or tell em go running. Its up to the parents till about ten years of age, but untill they relaise the risks of being fat, they make there own decision.


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24. identicon
    Kirby, Jun 22nd, 2007 @ 1:37am


    Hi im fat and obese and i love it!
    I go on the computer all the time, but i dont blame technology, i blame myself! Coz no one can hold me back from the bueno bars at the shops, what ya parents gonna do? Tie you up?...ERM NO!


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25. identicon
    Abz Kebabz, Jun 22nd, 2007 @ 1:38am

    emma yu r sumthin else!!

    oo yes i do agree with you and you are sat rite next to me! this discussion is wonderful!

    i think that kids like us need to get some exercise just look at us =D

    i like food though and i dont think that we should ban all fatty foods we need choccy!


    goodbye and dont forget to get running tonite emma ill meet you on the bridge hunniiii :s


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26. identicon
    JULIE WALTERS, Jun 22nd, 2007 @ 1:45am

    Computers are to blame

    The above is exactly what im talking about.

    I bet they are just sat there, messing about, you say you are doing coursework, you seem to be working really hard there tb kirby and Abz Kebabz? This is a serious matter and we are trying to debate in a grown matter to sort out the issue. Grow up, stop sitting there getting fatter.
    I find that technology should be blamed for all things, for the children messing about above are a perfect example, they are supposed to be working and they are just writing silly comments on the website....enough said really, dont you think?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27. identicon
    Darin Muscado, Aug 4th, 2007 @ 10:56pm

    whatever i see

    people don't know how to take blame for situations causing there problems so they blame others ... PATHETIC!!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28. identicon
    D3mz, Aug 4th, 2007 @ 11:06pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Why?

    this comment's true .. im philippino and raise by philippino parents i bring this up cuz i guess its such a big deal where people come from and i guess it is cuz different races teaches different lifestyles and some don't even teach morality just dome nonesense like are you gonna take out the garbage yet... MOM IM playing a game !! people are pathetic parents i hate to see what's real. .. My parents raised me rightand i havent been grounded nor throw tantroms throughout being 3 .. when i wanted something my mom let me get it and when it came to the counter she's like scrounging through her wallet .. then i came to my senses and took the stuff back being a good parents requires to think and people think of themselves too much so it doesnt happen. i laugh at society!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 27th, 2008 @ 1:26pm

    Re: Why?

    I just read what you said and want to be a good parent. Just let a kid have fun once and awhile they are just kids. That doesn't mean to let them be on it 24-7. Make them go outside and play. Buy them a bike so they have something to do or even a ball. Whatever is fine just let them be a kid only a HEALTHY kid

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 27th, 2008 @ 1:30pm

    Re: Poor kids

    Don't take this to silly because it's important to kids to be able to play things like this but it's important for parents to see their child healthy and slender(skinny). But I totally agree with think of children and not just of what people will look at you like from them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 27th, 2008 @ 1:35pm

    Re: Why are we so fat?

    Thats a really good question. Most of the time things on our parents want us to eat is the healthy foods. So thats what they mean on that. American doesn't have a eating disorder! We have an OVER WEIGHT PROBLEM!!!! So eat healthy and stay away from fatty foods!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 27th, 2008 @ 1:39pm

    Re: Re: Re: Why?

    That doesn't make you a bad parent to say no to your child. Next time you go shopping with your daughter put some healthy things in the cart. Some days you can have what she wants and others what you want. Another thing you can do is make her go outside or buy her a bike. And if she doesn't do that go outside with her and keep her busy.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 27th, 2008 @ 1:47pm


    You may be obese but come on you get better feelings about yourself. You get HOT with a capital H boyfriends. So go outside and run a mile or go to the gym. You'll feel much better I'm sure of it!!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 27th, 2008 @ 1:51pm

    Re: Computers are to blame

    May I ask... well I'm going to anyways. Why are you on then? Well I'm not fat go you can't use that at me. But what you said at first I TOTALLY AGREE!!! Peace and stay fit!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 27th, 2008 @ 1:57pm

    I tried to help most of your problems. I NEED A MAN can anyone help me with that? right now I LOVE DUSTIN HE IS LIKE SO CUTE but he is going out with Teegan which she is my friend. Jason is cute too but he is three years older then me! HELP!! please?!?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36. identicon
    UHH_DUH!!, Jan 27th, 2008 @ 1:59pm

    what do you think!


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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