Thursday, June 2, 2011

Frappacinos, Alcopops & Food Marketing to Kids

I, as all who know me will attest, am a coffee-addict. I will happily microwave days-old coffee before going without, and a latte is a standard indulgence. My children have been dragged on many a "mom needs coffee" expedition. So it should not be surprising to me that the preteens in my world are curious about caffeine or see drinking coffee as a way of entering adulthood.  For some kids, coffee and other stimulants are used to get all their homework done and still play sports and still do it all again tomorrow (in Race to Nowhere they claim that stimulants/ADD meds are the new drug of choice among high school students).  But, there are other forces at play too.  In 2007, Starbucks changed their previous "no marketing to kids" policy and rolled out fancy-pants caffeine laden drinks topped with whipped cream - they acknowledged their goal was to get the youth market and get them good (and for their whole lives).  And, drinks like AMP and Red Bull (and ) have sophisticated marketing campaigns and big budgets aimed at hooking kids. 

Frappacinos as gateway drug?  Frappacinos as a fun and frothy treat?  Once again, I find myself uncertain about how to best allow space for normal experimentation and provide healthy limits or feedback.  Food -- actually, that stuff that passes as food but is really more a perfect cocktail of sugar, fat, salt and crunch -- is such a fraught topic, I started to wonder if there is anything to learn from the research on other substances. 
And a few resources on caffeine & other drinks (I don't understand brain science enough to know how much information effects kids behaviors and choices but it seems worth giving them the chance to assess the situation for themselves, to recognize that while they might be bucking the rules of their parents they are capitulating to the desires of adult corporate marketers?)
Finally - some media literacy & food programs/sites to help teach kids to take on the marketing: