Thursday, January 19, 2006

Just say no!

While I'm all for people eating healthier foods, the lawsuit announced yesterday by a couple of Massachusetts parents and a couple of special interest groups in Boston has to be one of the most frivolous legal actions I've ever seen.

Are food and beverage companies targeting kids with their product ads? Yes. Do kids today consume too much junk food? Sure. Should kids have a healthier diet? Probably. But is this right way to go about it? Absolutely not.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest, the Boston-based group Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and two parents served notice that they intended to sue Viacom, the maker of the popular children's TV show "SpongeBob SquarePants," and the Kellogg Company, a big marketer of food to children, which features the lovable SpongeBob on packages of cereal, Pop Tarts and cookies.

At a news conference in Washington yesterday, the groups argued that using cartoon characters to sell to children is deceptive and unfair.

"It's unfair because kids under 5 don't even know it's a commercial," said Stephen Gardner, director of litigation for the Center for Science in the Public Interest. "They think it's a very short SpongeBob program. And it's unfair because at a very important time in their physical and psychological development, kids are being encouraged to eat food that is just not good for them."

The suit, to be filed in Massachusetts under the state's aggressive consumer protection laws, seeks to ban the marketing of food of "poor nutritional quality" to children under 8. Under law, plaintiffs are required to give a 30-day notice to defendants before filing a suit.

The problem here is that parents are the ones who should be monitoring their kids' television watching and their kids' eating habits. It's not as though 5-year-olds are driving themselves to the store and buying up a cart full of Lucky Charms and Cap'n Crunch, for goodness sake. It is the parents who buy the products and it is parents who serve them to their children.

For people who think that parents are put at an unfair advantage because their kids whine incessantly about buying the products they see on TV, there's one word that would solve everything: N-O. No. And it's really not that difficult to do. I know. I'm a parent.

If adults with children would stop trying to be their child's best friend and start being a parent, which usually involves a very healthy dose of the word, "no", then this would cease to be an issue. And if the kids insist on whining about the parent's decision, then it's likely because they've learned that such protestations generally are met with the parent's backing down. Kids aren't dumb.

Just because much of the food marketed to children may be deemed unhealthy doesn't mean that occasional treats aren't warranted. It just means that parents need to do their jobs as parents to monitor and control what their kids eat. It's not easy, but then being a good parent never is.

Scrap the lawsuit. Just say no!


At 10:43 AM, Blogger vcthree said...

Well, well, well...guess who's bizz-ack? That's right. The Food Police. And the cereal aisle is hot.

I have more to say on this issue, so it's going into blog column entry--I'll be sure to credit you for the idea, DrewL. Thanx.


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