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Letters to the Editor

From time to time, a commentary on the world will bubble up inside of me to the extent that I'm forced to write a letter to my local, metropolitan, daily newspaper, The Age. This is where I blow of some steam. Feel like venting too? Add your own comment or visit my homepage.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Parental Controls and the Media

Geez, it's getting tough to be a parent. With all those junk-food ads on telly and porn sites on the internet, it's harder and harder to delegate child-rearing to a trusted grey box in the corner (The Age, 25/04/05)!

Children are neither discerning nor worldly media consumers. Lobbyists believe the answer is a (futile) attempt to render media safe for unsupervised children. Why not just ask parents to supervise their kids' use of media (including judicious use of the mute or "Close Window" buttons)? Parents and kids will get to know each other better, while parental patience will provide a natural brake on screen time. Plus, it's the best way to inform developing young minds about how advertising and consumerism work. This will help contain that modern curse of "pester power". Older children, once successfully "inoculated" against the worst excesses of consumerism, can begin enjoying TV and the web unsupervised.

Our media has to serve the interests of all Australians, including grown-ups. Let's not allow a few vocal, lazy or ill-informed parents in search of a conscience-soothing quick-fix hijack the future of media.



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Anonymous Anonymous vented ...

I'm surprised that individuals feel the need to "stand up" for the right of corporate advertisers, they have more than enough lawyers and money to fight their own battles. Although large junk food advertisers play an important role in the economy, the modern marketing engine has really taken things too far.

It used to be that strong moral code kept TV executives from throwing random corporate sponsorship logos embedded into cartoons and I remember as a child being able to watch an entire episode of tintin with only one commercial break. Today, most YTV 30 minute programs feature 12 minutes of advertisements, on top of strategically places logos within the cartoons themselves. It seems that in television any source of income is welcome and if someone's willing to pay another party to drop their pants, they likely will.

I, for one, am complete in favour of more laws governing advertising in general. Current advertising practices are invasive and subversive. Legislation was put in place to ban subliminal messages at drive-in theatres, why oh why did they stop there! Aren't todays practices equally as bad? Advertisements covers trams, sidewalks, telephone and light poles, flyers, celebrities, magazines, movie theaters, (even the popcorn I buy at the theater), my box of cereal in the morning, trees, the SKY on a sunny day and even the walls in bathroom stalls! Can't a girl pee in peace!

Why let advertisers get more access to our children than absolutely necessary. Fizzy sugary drinks and calorie loaded snacks, offer no value to our children. The absence of sugar, caffeine and low-nutrient foods can also help children grow and increase their abilities to learn, which in turn will help to enrich our society.

Granted, parents need to teach their kids about the manipulative techniques of advertisement and how to be a smart consumer. (http://www.mediasmart.org.uk) The issue is that advertisers get to your child long before she or he can understand the concept of first and last, let alone understand agressive marketing ploys.

The Age article you referred to, deals specifically with junk food advertisements. Many studies have now shown that dietary habits form at an early age. That is why it is so critical to remove junk food from our schools and eliminate anything that isn't a healthy school lunch or snack item from school menus and fundraising efforts. This doesn't remove parental accountability. Parents also need to teach their children about proper and balanced nutrition as well, but when over 30% of their day is spent at school, the education system should also help support their health education curriculum with having ONLY healthy food available at school, at least at the elementary school level.

The "hijacked" media won't dwindle to nothing from lack of softdrink advertising. They'll find plenty of other sources of income and plenty of other ways to market to children. Currently, and without having to stretch my mental faculties - I can think of a few currently used en masse - public space advertisements, amateur sport sponsorship, amusement parks, movies and family restaurants. It seems that even the world's second largest advertising group agrees.

Go stand up for the underdog Greg. Just in case he/she is hard to spot, It's the small 5 year old child their low income family, sitting right over there in the corner.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006 5:17:00 am  
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Blogger Greg vented ...

Hey Nicole, great vent. Just awesome!

When it comes to shaking a fist in rage at whatever excesses some corporate bozo in a suit has tried on this time, you'll find a fellow traveller in me. Consumerism - in particular the entertainment/advertising nexus - is just out of control and must be stopped. I don't give a rat's arse about the financial viability of the tv companies or their sponsors, and I am personally awaiting their demise with glee. Whatsmore, I cannot fathom why parents allow their children to consume fizzy drinks, especially at school. So, are we on the same page? Do you trust my motivations now?

Now, let's look at the consequence side of the argument ...

Is a government bans on ads the best way to save the children? You concede that parents need to teach their children but advertisers "get to them first". Sure, you can't stop them reading sky-writing or billboards, but younger children will just tune that out since it's not aimed at them. The ads aimed at them are embedded in kids' TV and burger joints. Parents can shield their children from this, although it takes work compared with just plonking them in front of the box from 4pm to 7pm.

This is the problem. A large proportion of parents wish to use the telly as a baby-sitter, and are pissed off (guilty?) that the people running the telly (for profits!) will ruin their children's minds - and health. Politicians, seizing an opportunity to "do something" and get votes, descend on this with all manner of whacky solutions (virtual moats on the Net, bans on advertising). All, of course, apart from the painfully obvious: take some responsibility for your children rather than sacrificing them up to the Corporate Baal of television!

But no one gets votes for telling parents they're lazy or incompetent. So, instead, we dance around the elephant in the living room with these half-arsed solutions.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006 12:05:00 pm  

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