Children’s everyday exposure to food marketing: an objective analysis using wearable cameras

Children’s everyday exposure to food marketing: an objective analysis using wearable cameras


    Published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2017
    L.N Signal, J. Stanley, M. Smith, M. B. Barr, T. J. Chambers, J. Zhou,A. Duane, C. Gurrin, A. F. Smeaton, C. McKerchar,A. L. Pearson, J. Hoek, G. L. S. Jenkin and C. Ni Mhurchu



Over the past three decades the global prevalence of childhood overweight and obesity has increased by 47%. Marketing of energy-dense nutrient-poor foods and beverages contributes to this worldwide increase. Previous research on food marketing to children largely uses self-report, reporting by parents, or third-party observation of children’s environments, with the focus mostly on single settings and/or media. This paper reports on innovative research, Kids’Cam, in which children wore cameras to examine the frequency and nature of everyday exposure to food marketing across multiple media and settings.


Kids’Cam was a cross-sectional study of 168 children (mean age 12.6 years, SD = 0.5) in Wellington, New Zealand. Each child wore a wearable camera on four consecutive days, capturing images automatically every seven seconds. Images were manually coded as either recommended (core) or not recommended (non-core) to be marketed to children by setting, marketing medium, and product category. Images in convenience stores and supermarkets were excluded as marketing examples were considered too numerous to count.


On average, children were exposed to non-core food marketing 27.3 times a day (95% CI 24.8, 30.1) across all settings. This was more than twice their average exposure to core food marketing (12.3 per day, 95% CI 8.7, 17.4). Most non-core exposures occurred at home (33%), in public spaces (30%) and at school (19%). Food packaging was the predominant marketing medium (74% and 64% for core and non-core foods) followed by signs (21% and 28% for core and non-core). Sugary drinks, fast food, confectionary and snack foods were the most commonly encountered non-core foods marketed. Rates were calculated using Poisson regression.


Children in this study were frequently exposed, across multiple settings, to marketing of non-core foods not recommended to be marketed to children. The study provides further evidence of the need for urgent action to reduce children’s exposure to marketing of unhealthy foods, and suggests the settings and media in which to act. Such action is necessary if the Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity’s vision is to be achieved.