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New rules banning TV ads for junk food during programmes aimed at the under-16s will force firms to punt their wares to kids via mobile phones and the internet, the Children's Food Campaign has warned.

The new regulations came into force yesterday, and the campaign's Richard Watts claimed that purveyors of unhealthy fare are already "marketing to children through chat and social networking websites and online games".

He told the Telegraph: "We are seeing a general growth in the way the internet and text messaging is used to target children with ads. There are a lot of websites springing up where there is an interactive feel. Companies have 'kid zones' where children can play games with their friends."

Ed Mayo, chief executive of the National Consumer Council, recently said: "Parents should be aware that the internet is highly commercial. Every hour that a child spends in front of the computer is like letting them run loose in a shopping centre."

This latest warning about the unhealthy effect technology can have on kids' health come a few months after The Sleep Council found that electronic gadgets were the primary cause of the UK's youth not getting enough kip.

In a poll of 1,000 young 'uns, almost a quarter admitted to falling asleep "watching TV, listening to music or with other equipment still running, more than once a week". Specifically, a third of 12 to 16-year-olds quizzed said they slept for "between four and seven hours a night", while experts say eight hours is required.

The Centre's Dr Chris Idzikowski warned: "This is an incredibly worrying trend. What we are seeing is the emergence of 'Junk Sleep' - that is sleep that is of neither the length nor quality that it should be in order to feed the brain with the rest it needs.

"Youngsters need to be taught a healthy lifestyle includes healthy sleep as well as healthy food. The message is simple: switch off the gadgets and get more sleep." ®

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