A new study has revealed that children surveyed at a Head Start center in California preferred the taste of food wrapped in the McDonald's logo over the exact same food unwrapped. Some of the foods were common-place snacks like carrots and milk.
Researchers are balking at the overly successful effects of McDonald's strategic marketing toward children. Psychologists are lining-up against MickyD's while others choose to blame the parents.
So, whose job is it to monitor what children are seeing and consuming?
As parents, my husband and I have always taken it upon ourselves to try to filter and educate our kids about advertising. We are a very non-commercial family. We hardly ever watch commercial television, in fact, we do not even have cable. The few times I have seen advertisements geared toward the kids, I have taken time to explain to our children what the ad is trying to accomplish and how it is trying to change their minds about what they are selling.
Marketing towards children is ruthless. There is nothing a corporation will not do to instill those warm, associative feelings toward their brand early in children. (Even our own government knows how to play the game.)
I have to agree that parents must beware.
But, does that mean that advertisers can do whatever they want? What else can we learn from this study?
It seems to me that it is evident that children in poorer, low-income families are more likely to report this way. In fact, I wonder if the study knew ahead of time that they would be able to produce these results by surveying a Head Start center. (Head Start is a government provided preschool for low-income and welfare families). I think it is plausible to expect low-income families and immigrants to be naive and uneducated of the harmful affects of television.
A study released last month reports that children with more educated parents watch less television. I do not think that it is safe to assume that this survey would find similar results in children from a more diverse background.
Educated parents may begin a sigh of relief, thinking "My kids sure don't watch that much television and we never eat fast food", but not so fast. Even I, an admitted television nazi, am concerned by the broader ramifications of this study.
The health and eating habits of low-income families should be a concern to us all. These are the people who are being supplied Medicaid by our tax dollars and will potentially not have insurance in years ahead. Being a society that attempts to provide care for all citizens, we cannot forget that the exploitation of the disadvantaged is an exploitation of us all.
Just because we know better than to eat McDonald's poison, doesn't mean that we are not feeling the toxic affects inadvertently. The "If you don't like it, don't eat it" mentality only works for adults. I don't remember being able to go out and grocery shop for myself when I was 4-years-old. Do you?