The influence of Freddo
Whether borrowed from literature or cinema or created specifically for the task, mascots and cartoon characters have proved to be wonderful aids to selling consumables, particularly junk food. Commercials aimed at a younger audience often contain an animal character belting out a jingle or promising a fun time for anyone consuming their product. Television used to be the medium of choice for advertisers who based campaigns on such characters, but in recent years these figures have turned up on websites, online games, apps and other new media. Advertisers are, after all, well aware of the fact that not only are children highly receptive to such messages but also enthusiastic and facile adopters of new technology.
This spread of advertising to new media platforms has alarmed health groups such as the Obesity Policy Coalition, which points out that regulators are frequently unaware of their existence. The fact many of the platforms have the appearance of interactive game sites - they lack company logos, for example - probably only adds to the confusion. Deakin University researcher Paul Harrison says there is no confusion in the minds of the young children who download the apps or visit the sites, and that all of them ''work out the association between a character and a product from a very young age, even if they are not together at the time''.
The Obesity Policy Coalition says that since such characters are the common factor used to draw children to fattening and sugary foods and drinks the federal government should ban their use on social media platforms and in free online games. Governments have already begun to address rising obesity levels by introducing school exercise programs, and limiting children's exposure to junk food advertising would seem to be a natural corollary to such prevention campaigns.
Whether they have the courage to do so, however, is open to debate. Despite repeated calls to limit the amount of junk food advertising shown during peak children's viewing times, governments have gone no further than the introduction of voluntary ''self-regulation''. Not surprisingly, the frequency of ads has altered very little.
The other problem with efforts to limit the use of characters such as Freddo Frog and the Paddle Pop Lion on social media - other than the fact that it is not illegal - is that attempting to corral online content is nearly impossible, as Communications Minister Stephen Conroy discovered when he tried to make the filtering of certain internet sites mandatory.
Common sense suggests the best guardians of the television and computer viewing habits of children are parents, and that the best antidote to weight gain is fresh air and exercise. Instead of relying on others to safeguard their children's health and welfare, parents need to take greater responsibility for what their offspring consume - in both media and food. That, and the setting of limits on time spent in front of a TV or computer, is the best way to ensure children remain fit and healthy.
For many years, the ACT's s population growth tended to lag behind that of the other states and territories. For those who appreciated the city's compact size and amenity, that was just fine. But things have changed. The city's rate of population growth for the year ended June 2012 is 1.9 per cent, equal with Queensland's, and surpassed only by Western Australia's astounding 3.3 per cent growth rate.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Canberra's population passed the 374,700 mark in June. If the rate of growth continues, the ACT will have 400,000 people by about 2016, and more than 530,000 by the early 2030s, potentially putting it ahead of Tasmania.
The implication of Canberra's burgeoning population is perhaps less profound than some people fear. Aside from longer rush hours, our quality of life has not noticeably diminished in the past 20 years, and there is no reason to expect the next 20 years to be much different. An increase in the number of MLAs - no bad thing - will in all likelihood be the biggest administrative change, along with slightly longer commutes and more expensive parking. One thing seems clear: Canberra is no longer the nation's best-kept secret.