Submission Number: 00149
Received: 6/11/2011 2:03:27 PM
Commenter: Heather McDougal
Agency: Federal Trade Commission
Initiative: Preliminary Proposed Nutrition Principles to Guide Industry Self-Regulatory Efforts; Project No. P094513
Attachments: No Attachments
To whom it may concern,
I teach media literacy to children in elementary school, which means I converse with children about what they think of brand names and products on a weekly basis. It constantly scares me how much impact advertising has on children's choices, how much it affects their belief systems and their critical thinking, not to mention their self-image. The longer I teach, the more I feel very strongly that the United States should be adopting something closer to Swedish laws about advertising to children under ten.
Children of that age often do not have a good critical evaluation system to tell if they are being manipulated, and food industry professionals exploit that in order to make greater profits. They hire child psychologists to find the best ways to make children feel bad about themselves so that they can be made to feel that things would be better if they would only buy the products. Some of the quotes I have come across from marketers are such mind-boggling statements as "If you can get them when they're under five, they'll be yours for life!"
This is abhorrent and disgusting, and it does not stop there. Some of the children I've worked with starve themselves because of digitally-manipulated advertisements they've seen that tell them they must look thinner than what is normal for most children of ten. I've seen the effect advertising has on older children, and I would not hesitate to say that I believe advertising to children is DIRECTLY linked to childhood obesity. Even as adults, how often do we see an ad for a juicy hamburger -- and find ourselves wishing we could have one?
Nothing that appears in an ad is by accident; and when companies claim it will hurt their business to stop advertising, they are basing that business model on a false foundation: the idea that people should be consuming the amounts of sugary food that they presently consume. This is not appropriate, and if companies really want to sell their products they should be making these same profits off of products with reasonably decent nutrition levels. Their advertising does not invite, it compells. Huge amounts of money are thrown at the psychology of compulsion, at carefully-crafted psychological bullying, and for what? To get our children to eat horribly unhealthy products, items which I would not even classify as "food," except, perhaps, that it goes into one's mouth and gets chewed up.
Honestly, I feel that advertising to children should not be self-regulated at all. These are our babies, the creatures we raise and are supposed to care for! Our future! We should be protecting them from predators, and companies who make a profit off of changing how they think about the world can only be described as such. We regulate strongly about child abuse, but we leave mind-manipulation and the encouragement of unhealthy habits -- possibly life-shortening habits -- in people who are not yet old enough to make intelligent life-choices, up to self-regulation? Come on, take a stronger stand. Or at least, don't bend to their pressure.