The Right to Sell Kids Junk!

Dear Commons Community,

Mark Bittman, an opinion columnist and the Times magazine’s food columnist; has an op-ed piece in today’s New York Times, blasting the way corporations use advertising “brainwash” on our children to buy a lot of “junk” especially “junk food”.   Reminding us that 17 percent of young people are obese, he takes aim as follows:

“It’s been reported that kids see an average of 5,500 food ads on television every year (sounds low, when you think about it), nearly all peddling junk. (They may also see Apple commercials, but not of the fruit kind.) Worse are the online “advergames” that distract kids with entertainment while immersing them in a product-driven environment. (For example: create your own Froot Loops adventure!)

And beyond worse: collecting private data, presumably in order to target children with personalized junk food promotions, as in this Capri Sun advergame, which asks for permission to use your webcam to film you — without first verifying your age.”

Bittman traces the legal history of how we got to this point by referring to an article by Samantha Graff, Dale Kunkel and Seth E. Mermin, that appeared in the journal Health Affairs:

“advertising was only granted First Amendment protection in the 1970s, when a series of decisions established that commercial speech deserves a measure of protection because it provides valuable information to the consumer, like the price and characteristics of a product.

“When the court extended the First Amendment to commercial speech [in 2009].. it focused on how consumers benefit from unfettered access to information about products in the marketplace. But this notion has been twisted to advance the ‘rights’ of corporations to express their ‘viewpoints’ in the public debate — not only about their favored political candidates, but also about the wares they are hawking.”

What in heaven’s name are we doing to our children?  For too many of them, it is eating unhealthy, being bombarded by electronic anything, and test, test, test.



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