Children have grown up with digital technology as part of their everyday life, gaining a lot of value from their online connections.

Digital technology allows children to take part in education, connect with others and access entertainment. This has become even more essential during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Alcohol, unhealthy food and gambling companies are constantly using innovative digital marketing approaches, which can make it hard for both kids and adults to tell when something is an advert in disguise.

Children should be able to take part in the digital world without being exposed to the marketing of harmful products.

This report focuses on children up to the age of 17, taking a collective approach to harmful industries – industries that produce and promote products that are harmful to health and wellbeing.

To support families in achieving good health and wellbeing, we need strong, evidence-based policies and government regulation to protect children from digital marketing by harmful industries.

Key findings:

  1. Setting the scene: children are surrounded by digital marketing of harmful products via websites, social media, gaming and influencers. Their viewing and browsing habits are also being monitored and recorded by harmful industries, to be used for marketing and promotion.

  2. Marketing of harmful products: digital marketing reaches young children, with evidence that this affects their attitudes, habits, consumption and health later in life.

  3. The digital marketing mix: children are exposed to a growing range of marketing activities online, a mix of clear advertising and more subtle techniques, which are harder to recognise by children and adults.

  4. The current (limited) protections in Australia: the framework overseeing digital advertising of harmful products to children is designed by harmful industries and prioritises profits over children’s health and wellbeing.

  5. Responses from around the world: efforts are under way in many countries to protect children’s online privacy and digital marketing of harmful products to children.

  6. Conclusion: time to act: a combined, system-wide approach is needed to make sure children can enjoy being online, but are protected from the marketing of harmful industries.

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