Advertising and Candy

Our household had a fascist state moment yesterday when I officially banned candy from our home.  It’s not something that we’ve necessarily been talking about for a while but my wife and I have seen changes in our kids since Halloween.  In addition to a general decline in positive attitudes we’ve had several ongoing discipline problems in regards to delaying gratification.  This delayed gratification came to a head yesterday when one of children was caught stealing candy from a local store.  We were shocked at this action and it was the proverbial icing on the cake.

We have had a growing sense on discomfort with the amount of marketing our children are subjected to – especially now that Treehouse doesn’t quite meet the entertain bar for our kids.  They are watching programs for older kids, reading books and magazines and listening more attentively to the radio.  The huge change is also their online usage.  As they check out various websites for free games they are saturated with advertisements for the next toy or movie or game or video game.

As I’ve been sitting with this my recent Adbusters Magazine has arrived like a breath of fresh air.  I’m slowly making my way through it and found some encouragement a couple pages in.  They had a 2 page spread pointing out legislations and facts that are occurring across the global that serve as road markers for a push against consumerism and advertising. Here are a few that relate to children:

  • Spongebob Squarepants has been proven to make children agitated and dumb.  The Campaign for a Commercial-free childhood have started a campaign against Nickelodeon to stop marketing it to children under 6.
  • Ads targeting kids to consume obesity-inducing food have been outlawed in Estonia.
  • In Taiwan, advertisers are also facing new legislation to stop them from marketing to children as well as considering a tax on junk food similar to that on alcohol and tobacco.

There are three more examples that I think are significant.  They are very local, current and well within the scope of local and provincial governments to enact.

  1. Ontario schools, as of Fall 2011, have banned the sale of candy from all of their campuses.
  2. Since 1989, Quebec lawmakers have banned ALL advertising directed at children under 13 – the law of its kind in North America
  3. In San Francisco, through a civic bylaw they have decided that the inclusion of toys in fast food “Happy Meals” constitutes a manipulation of consumers and have banned the inclusion of toys – effectively killing children’s meals in fast food chains.

Enacting these changes is very possible – even on a civic level.  We’re starting (again) to take some new family steps that adjust what we eat, what marketing we expose ourselves too and hopefully create a safer space for our kids that isn’t overwhelmed by external pressures from very persuasive marketers.

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