Physicians group calls for legislation to regulate digital advertising and its effect on kids

A young boy plays on a tablet. The American Academy of Pediatrics is calling on lawmakers to ban all advertising targeted to children under the age of 7, among other bold actions.

(CNN)No less than $900 million is spent each year in the advertising industry, including marketing snack foods, video games and sugary drinks to kids each year. Those ads boost companies' bottom lines, but they can also lead kids to unhealthy choices.

To help protect kids from the harmful effects of digital advertising and data collection, the American Academy of Pediatrics is urging lawmakers, parents and pediatricians to take bold action.
The AAP is calling on lawmakers to ban all advertising targeted to children under the age of 7. The group is urging limits to advertising aimed at those under 17. And it's advocating for the end of online tobacco sales because the products can easily be purchased by children.
    The AAP released its new policy on digital advertising and its effect on kids on Monday in the journal Pediatrics.
      "The internet should not be a place where advertising for unhealthy products can reach children," said Dr. Nusheen Ameenuddin, co-author of the policy and chair of the AAP Council on Communications and Media.

      More legislation could be needed

      Children who are exposed to those ads are more likely to consume high-calorie, low-nutrient food and beverages, studies have shown. Ads can be correlated with the use of tobacco products and electronic cigarettes, as well as alcohol and marijuana.
        "Children are uniquely vulnerable to the persuasive effects of advertising because of immature critical thinking skills and impulse inhibition," the authors of the policy explain. "School-aged children and teenagers may be able to recognize advertising but often are not able to resist it when it is embedded within trusted social networks, encouraged by celebrity influencers, or delivered next to personalized content."
        The data that these companies collect from children in order to serve up ads can end up hurting kids later.
        "This policy statement expresses concern about the practice of tracking and using children's digital behavior to inform targeted marketing campaigns, which may contribute to health disparities among vulnerable children or populations," they continued.
        The AAP is calling on Congress to update the 1998 Children's Online Privacy Protection Act and shore up gaps in its enforcement.