Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Kids and fast food ads

Australia's television standards board is considering a ban on fast food advertising during children's television shows.

A Canadian op/ed today calls for the same thing. They quote a study that claims eliminating fast food television advertising "would cut the number of overweight children (ages 3 to 11) by 10 per cent and the number of overweight adolescents (ages 12 to 18) by 12 per cent."

Some fast food restaurants do market directly to children; kid's meals and the included toys are an example of this. In fact McDonald's, for many years, has focused its marketing strategy on kids in an effort to create 'customers for life.' (Read Fast Food Nation for more on that.)

As a result, I'm sure a ban on fast food advertising to children would cut down on their consumption of fast food, but wouldn't it be better if parents controlled what their kids eat instead of the government? Parents should know what their kids are eating, and they should educate their children about the benefits of good nutrition and the dangers of 'bad foods.' Eliminating advertising would cut down on awareness but not availability, so teaching kids about smart food choices is the most direct and comprehensive path to healthier kids.


George said...

Hi Ken,

I agree that it is the responsibility of parents to ensure that their children do not eat junk food; with that said, I do not think that the government shouldn't have a role to play. In fact, when it comes to health promotion, there are really 4 main methods of doing it, and I feel that a combination of all four should be used to achieve maximum effect. They are persuasion (advertisements that make healthy foods look attractive, e.g., with the help of supermodels and such), legal action (in this case, the government stepping in to ban advertisements of junk food during kid's TV shoes), community action (where a group of people get together to step up awareness and promotional campaigns of their own) and individual counseling (where people simply interact one-on-one to promote a healthier lifestyle). So therefore while individual counseling (i.e., parents teaching their kids not to eat junk foods) is definitely the right thing to do, I do not think one should rule out the other three methods, which are just as important. Besides, we should remember that there are parents out there who may not be aware of what constitutes junk food and why it is bad for health.


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