On Tuesday, Disney announced that it is enacting a ban against junk food marketed toward children on all of its television stations. Food will be evaluated for sugar, sodium, and calories, and if it doesn’t meet “healthy child” criteria, advertising for the product won’t be allowed on the station. This includes all of its major holdings, including ABC. In addition, Disney will be introducing a line of “Mickey approved” foods that are healthier for kids. Foods that meet the standard will have a Mickey silhouette with a check mark.
This is a huge step toward reducing the epidemic of childhood obesity in America, since children are receiving more and more media input on what to ask their parents for at the supermarket. Some people are thrilled, including First Lady Michelle Obama, and are lauding Disney for setting the example of responsible programming for children. Others, however, see this as just another step in the “nanny state” overreach of the government on our free will.
I will be the first to admit that seeing an obese child breaks my heart. Aren’t we, as adults, responsible for raising our children to be healthy, both physically and mentally? Allowing a child to eat enough and be sedentary enough that they become obese seems grossly unfair. Childhood incidents of Type 2 Diabetes, heart disease, joint problems, and merciless, relentless, vicious teasing from classmates are all counterindicators of physical and mental health that can come with childhood obesity. And yet, even armed with the knowledge that we have, childhood obesity is racing to catch up with adult levels of obesity in the US. Not a race a child deserves to win.
Personally, I’m thrilled by the idea that Disney has decided to take its vast influence on our children and at least try to do something good with it, aside from introducing racially diverse Disney princesses and teaching our kids that wild animals are both excellent at communicating and also wildly entertaining. Just grab a raccoon and start exploring, kids! Meeko says it’s A-OK!
I also think that we, as parents, are ultimately in charge of what our children eat. Certainly, dinosaur-shaped fruit snacks didn’t just march into my kitchen because my child wished them into existence. I paid American currency for those little sugar gems, and I thank God for the silence that ensues while a pack is frantically crammed into my kid’s tiny craw. But I like that I have the option to introduce those snacks, versus having them heavy-handedly marketed into his little baby brain while he watches cartoons so I can have 10 minutes to figure out what’s making the refrigerator smell bad.
The “nanny state” argument? Can we be real? Just because an Obama endorses it doesn’t mean that it was an action taken by the US Government. If large corporations are finally starting to take health/the environment/responsibility into their own money-grubbing paws, I’m DOWN WITH THAT. Haven’t we been crusading for economic and social pressures to take care of corporate responsibility, so that the government can stay out of it? Now it’s happening! We should be dancing in the streets and waiting for Monsanto to join the ranks by banning third-foot-inducing pesticide and Frankenveggies, not complaining and misusing libertarian phrases to whine that our kids don’t get to hear about the tasty dessert items that should be included in their school lunches.
I tip my hat to Disney for taking a chance and trying to do the right thing. Do I think it was motivated by hopes that kids will be clamoring for Disney-branded “healthy options”? Uh, yeah. Duh. But I don’t particularly care what the motivation is if it means that there will be a few extra kids who can climb the monkey bars without becoming short of breath and taking hits from their Rescue Chocolate Bar for support.
Can we really complain about something that’s good for our kids? What do you think?
photo credit Disney