McDonalds and Skittles: child predators on the net

I haven't given much credence to the hype about internet child predators. But now it turns out the predators are really there, we know there names, and they even live in our neighborhoods, although they haven't registered anywhere except the phonebook:

Some of the world's leading food manufacturers have begun marketing to children on social networking websites and internet chat programs.

Brands such as McDonald's, Starburst, Haribo and Skittles are using the internet to target children now that new rules from the media regulator Ofcom have made it difficult to advertise during children's television.

At the beginning of July, the sweet brand Skittles paid a six-figure sum to set up a profile on the social networking site Bebo which has already been viewed more than 50,000 times and attracted more than 3,500 "friends". In an interview with the Guardian, a Bebo spokesman described these "friends" as "brand ambassadors". Bebo users have to declare they are at least 13, but it is known that much younger children do use the site. (The Guardian)

What kind of stuff? Virtual branded IM buddies that deliver product lowdowns. Encouraging kids to become "brand ambassadors" to other kids. McDonald's website has a shoot-em-up game in its Kids Zone section where the targets are McDonald's logos:

McDonald's chief marketing officer for northern Europe, Jill McDonald, admitted to the Guardian that the company did not need to advertise to children to make a profit, but said it was using its marketing as a force for good.

Shooting McDonald's logos as a force for good? Hmmm. Maybe I see their point. Encouraging socially responsible behavior.


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Aaaargh..where to start? As the 58 year old mum of a 15 year old daughter,I have lived long enough and am wise enough to have observed huge societal change in my time.I deplore much of it(haven't parents always) but the clock cannot be rewound.It will continue to click,click to its eventual conclusion.Yes,she loves "fast-food".I just try to ensure that she is savvy enought to realise what is happening.Heh...I don't want her to become as cynical as her old mum,but smart beats stupid. It is a war out there.