Food-based games available on smartphones and tablets can be a fun and interactive experience for children - but what happens when these apps turn out to be adverts for unhealthy food?
A new children's food and gardening app has recently won the digital equivalent of an Oscar. The app, called Dirtgirlworld, teaches children about growing foods and cooking them from scratch. It is full of healthy meal ideas and is eco-friendly, but are all of these types of apps beneficial, or can some be bad for our children's health?
Most of the bestselling children-targeted food apps are based on processed foods: run a pizza restaurant, scoop some ice cream, ice a cupcake etc. Many of these games are now being dubbed 'advergames' thanks to companies like Chewits and Lovehearts using such games to push their products.
Fast food is getting in on the act too. Big names like Burger King and McDonald's are teaming up with developers of the most popular children's apps. The UK's Advertising Code states that any advertisements have to be "obviously identifiable as such". For most adults, seeing these branded games as adverts is obvious, but a recent review carried out by the Family and Parenting Institute revealed that most children under the age of 10 couldn’t recognise an advert disguised as a game.
Nutritionists and psychologists are calling for tighter controls on such companies marketing unhealthy foods in this way. New voluntary restrictions on junk food advertising are set to be phased in by 2016, but it is unclear as to whether they will apply to tablet and smartphone apps.
If you want to learn more about healthy eating and nutrition for your family, speaking to a qualified nutritionist could help. For more information and to find a nutritionist near you, please see our Healthy Eating page.
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