Child-directed advertising must be better regulated to curb adverse impacts – UN experts

10 August 2016

Just head of International Youth Day, two United Nations human rights experts are drawing attention to the impact of commercial advertising directed at young children that instils, at an early age, over-consumption and indebtedness, and have urged the Governments to redefine those child-directed advertisements.

“Such commercial messages have the potential to shape children's long-term consumer and financial behaviour, and they are growing in number and reach,” Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky, the UN Independent Expert on foreign debt and human rights, and Dainius Püras, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to health, said in a news release ahead of International Youth Day, which will be celebrated on Friday, 12 August.

Child-directed advertisements may cause unhealthy consumer behaviour that becomes ingrained at an early age. For example, children may over consume unhealthy foods that cause severe health consequences; they may also pressure their parents to purchase items that are neither budgeted nor educationally necessary, hence, making family private debt a serious problem.

Moreover, according to a recent UNICEF International Youth Day, children do not become happier by just acquiring more and more goods.

Many countries therefore have prohibited television advertising at certain hours or in connection with children's programmes. The UN World Health Organization (WHO) has also recommended that settings where children gather should be free from all forms of marketing of unhealthy foods.

“We call upon States to ban advertising, promotion and sponsorship by manufacturers of alcohol, tobacco, and unhealthy foods in schools and in the context of children's sporting events and other events that could be attended by children,” said the independent experts.

They further urged States to create guidelines that either restrict or minimize the impact of the marketing of unhealthy foods, alcohol and tobacco in general.

“More broadly, we urge States to regulate advertising directed at children, in conformity with the duty of States to protect children from material injurious to their well-being," said the experts.

Special Rapporteurs are appointed by the UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a specific human rights theme or a country situation. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.


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