William Dietz, the former director of the Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has authored a September 2013 commentary in the journal Health Affairs, urging the “mobilization of parents as a political force to improve standards for food marketed to children.” William Dietz, “New Strategies to Improve Food Marketing to Children,” Health Affairs, September 2013. Recounting the past efforts of the Federal Trade Commission and other government agencies to curb food marketing to children, Dietz argues that these initiatives “have had a modest but positive impact” on the media landscape but have ultimately foundered in the face of industry opposition.

“Because groups that support the needs of children will never have the same resources in the political arena as those of the industries that market to children, it is time to consider alternative strategies,” Dietz writes. In particular, he suggests that reframing screen time as “advertisement time” and focusing on the privacy issues raised by digital media could galvanize parents “to act on behalf of children’s health.” He also recommends “the use of social media for counteradvertising” as well as “the development of new technologies to decrease exposure to food advertisements.”

“My premise is that advocates have not framed this issue in a way that has engaged parents,” concludes Dietz. “Increased efforts by pediatricians, advocates, and consumer groups to inform parents about the pervasive and intrusive nature of food marketing and the impact of such advertising on their children’s health may help mobilize parents as an effective political force and increase demand for technological and other strategies that will help parents limit the food marketing to which their children are exposed.”