Things that make you go hmmmmmm...?

EIGHT out of 10 parents want the Government to regulate the marketing of junk food to children, a survey released by the consumer group Choice has found.

Nearly nine out of 10 respondents said junk food ads made it harder for them to promote healthy eating in the home.

However, the survey failed to unearth whether parents would support a total ban on junk food advertising during children's television hours, an outcome Choice has been pushing for, or whether they had alternative suggestions.
Conversely, Collin Segelov, executive director of the Australian Association of National Advertisers says his organisation's research had found that parents blame themselves first for not being strong enough, followed in descending order by schools, government and food manufacturers.

Clearly both parties have vested interests in the debate and are going to push the story most suitable to their needs.

A tidal wave of thoughts ensues. Many of them I know will not be shared by the community at large, some of them are without the experience of raising children, yet I cannot accede to such broad-stroke reports.

I could debate for and against the above, which means that clearly some middle ground needs to be found. But for me, the most important thing is for parents to undertake the responsibility of parenting. Health initiatives, advertising guidelines and school breakfast programmes our nanny state adopts are only knee jerk fix to the absolution of responsibility by the great unwashed.

First things first - how much television do kids watch these days and what are they permitted to watch? As a child, my access to television was restricted by my mother, particularly during the week. The little television we did watch was primarily on the ABC. Instead of watching TV our recreational time was spent playing with toys and/or siblings and friends, riding bikes, kicking footballs, ballet, music lessons, and at the neighbourhood park. In the evenings after dinner and before lights out we read or were read to, and on occasions a made up (or real) story might get told.

It's amazing what is learned and absorbed at this age. I have never read any of the old testament of the bible for example, yet in the final years of school I attended a Church of England and one day the reverend delivered one of his spiels which was all-so-familiar. At home that evening I asked mum and she laughed, "Oh I used to read the bible stories to you as a kid, I thought they were fun!"

Even if times have changed, even if parents aren't always available to supervise the outdoor activities, even if recreation time for children is more dominated by technology than ever before, surely parents have a role in determining what kind of media their children are tuning in to? Whilst I am not in favour of hours in front of the TV, wouldn't it be better to sign up for cable and get the kids in front of the discovery channel and other factual but interesting material, or invest edutainment DVDs?

The second thing that grabs my attention is the content of food advertising across the board - not just that leveled at children. Marketers with linguistics degrees cleverly use a variety of means to lead the viewer to infer the desired message - a message the brand and advertising gurus have decided will sell the product, such as "with all the goodness you add" which in isolation means there's very little goodness in it at all. Convenience food is more con than food!

Regardless of advertising guidelines there is already significant legislation in place to curb advertising claims under the Fair Trade Acts of the states and the Trade Practices Act at a federal level. To date, the ACCC sits on its hands for the most part.

The incidence of cross marketing, FMCG aligning with entertainment and cult childrens' items, is certainly a challenge for parents to navigate. But is reeling that in without addressing the issues mentioned above putting the cart before the horse?

view the full article at SMH

other posts on this topic:

idiot box, idiot jar

what's in a name

edutainment - you'll never look at slugs the same way ever again!


purple goddess said...

"the most important thing is for parents to undertake the responsibility of parenting. Health initiatives, advertising guidelines and school breakfast programmes our nanny state adopts are only knee jerk fix to the absolution of responsibility by the great unwashed."

Hear! Hear!

While I am not a fundie food fascist, I freely own up to being PERSONALLY RESPONSIBLE FOR WHAT MY KIDS PUT IN THEIR MOUTHS.

My kids go to McDonalds B/day parties, they have money in their wallets that they can spend of crap if they wish, but at home, I am the one who chooses whether to serve pre-fab meals, get take away or serve something with a modicum of nutritional value. And I usually choose the latter. We're not above the occasional pizza night, but I would bet 9/10 meals I serve in my house are made from fresh, nutritious ingredients.

And they're bloody good meals, to. I KNOW I've never served up Continental Side Crap as a addendum to a meal.

My kids lunches are healthy and fun, without resorting to sugar-laden "energy" bars.

And most importantly, my kids know how to read food labels and distinguish the "parsel-tongue" language of advertising.


t h e - g o b b l e r said...

Interesting & thought provoking post Grocer.
Its funny & not to wind PG up but posts like these always have us scrambling to justify our own position & & illitrate how we are avoiding in this cae, the junk food issue.
Its like when people say thay are not drinking at a socail gathering, immediately the ripple of vindicating ones own reasons for boozing become very important to explain.
I had to curb my own (righteous) comments about what we do in our house for this reason.(PG I'm with you so dont stress!)
I will say though that I do agree completely on the personal responsibility issue-No one makes us buy it, no one makes us watch the ads & ultimately no one makes us eat it.
It is a shame that this glaringly obvious fact gets lost in out increasing reliance as a society to find someone else to blame cause we are a bunch of lard arses.

grocer said...

Thanks to both of your well-considered comments. I never said I NEVER ate junk food. Heck I still eat it from time to time (even today in fact).

But, as you both have pointed out, taking responsibility for one's actions includes taking responsibility for the offspring you bring into this world.

Georgie said...

Not a big fan of the nanny state myself but I think it's about giving parents a break from the constant clamour of marketing messages kids receive - TV, internet, supermarket shelves, even on the sports field. Choice has a storybook that better explains its position at
I should add a bit of a disclaimer at this point - and that is that I work at the organisation, but am noodling around in 'feet up' mode (literally, in front of the tele) rather than in any official capacity.

grocer said...

Thanks for your input.

My spiel isn't anti- Choice's position, but I think there are more endemic issues that need to be addressed.

Whilst I do agree that marketing junk food to children is somewhat predatory, parents have the responsibility of rearing their children and that includes moderating their exposure to advertising and saying "no" from time to time.

purple goddess said...

I keep coming back to this post, with a myriad of things to say, but not too sure how to put it.

A ban on food advertising wouldn't affect the way my kids eat.

However, I think they way I provided food, talk about food, prepare food, might put me (on Gobbler!) in a minority percentage of the population.

Any initiative for changes HAS to start with the parents. Maybe if Feral Cheryl and her 5 kids to 8 different fathers over in Bogan-ville (and, yes, I am stigmatising and marginalising, so sue me)had better access to information on what constitutes good, healthy CHEAP food, then the revolution could begin. Maybe those of us who get all riled up about personal responsibility are the ones already exercising it, and a ban on junk food advertising, along with a national initiative to edumicate parents might not be a BAD thing?

grocer said...

Thanks for that Ella. You've hit the nail on the head.

It's a complicated scenario, I know, and one which deserves a whole lot more than my little post, but I get so riled with the bandaid approach to things.

I am not saying that junk food advertising shouldn't be curtailed, and screened during certain periods, but this is not the magic solution.

Cathy x. said...

haha and that continental advert by the way.. the one with televisions first ever obese guardian vouching for packaged goods.. surely people must be able to put two and two together !