As Civil Eats points out, 32 percent of TikTok’s users are young: between ten and 19 years of age. While it makes sense for fast food chains to target Generation Z (a demographic that spends around one-fifth of its funds on food, according to QSR), the potential effects of such advertisements on youths’ health troubling. Nutrition counselor & researcher Joan Ifland, Ph.D., talked to Mashed about the case of Charli D’Amelio and her sugar-filled Dunkin’ Donuts drink. For Ifland, Dunkin’s TikTok tactic represented “a new low in the addiction business mode.” Ifland signaled that “targeting the teen demographic with caffeine, sugar, and dairy is damaging … as teens are already suffering from hormonal shifts [and] they experience this as heightened anxiety and mood swings.”
Ethically, too, Generation Z should know they’re being hit with an ad. On TikTok, that’s not always the case. “While all child-directed food marketing is troubling, social media marketing is particularly insidious,” food expert Bettina Elias Siegel told Civil Eats. Seigel explained that on social media, “The marketing is so seamlessly woven into the platform that even older kids and teens may not realize the influencer is being paid to shill the product, or that he or she is hoping to catch the attention of a brand for eventual sponsorship.” FTC guidelines encourage social media influencers to disclose when they are paid to advertise for a company. Complying with those guidelines is, however, voluntary.