You blame parents, not marketers, for kids' obesity

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The Kaiser Family Foundation released a report last week tracking how food marketers use websites to target kids, particularly through "advergames." The tactics are under fire as unethical, but 64% of voters in an Advertising Age online poll said marketers aren't doing anything wrong.

Most respondents mentioned the tie-in to childhood obesity, saying you can't blame the internet or marketers for the epidemic. "Obesity among kids is from irresponsible parenting, and the attacks on advergaming are just more people unwilling to accept their role in balancing their children's lives," said Peter C. Fontano, contracts and procurement analyst for Shell Lubricants.

Jennifer Allen, a subscription-marketing manager in Newtown, Pa., also said parents are part of the problem. "The responsibility of controlling a child's diet lies with the parents, not advertisers," Ms. Allen said. "The responsibility of monitoring a child's online activity also lies with the parents."

N. Hendrickson of Lamar Advertising said advergames are acceptable and even worth it if they are keeping kids away from online predators. "With all of the other horrific things kids run into online, I think kids playing a game on Hershey.com is the least of our concerns," she said.

Still, advertising to kids is touchy, and 36% of voters said it's wrong. "Children engaging in these online games are too young to understand that they are being marketed to," said Victoria Berends, marketing manager at Project Lean. "The messages are seamlessly integrated into the activity, therefore taking advantage of children's naivete and crossing ethical boundaries."

What you say: 64% of you say advergames aimed at kids don't cross ethical lines and parents should be monitoring their children's online activities. But 36% say targeting kids with entertainment-style marketing is wrong because kids don't necessarily know it's advertising.
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