Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Dinner and TV

I want to recommend a book to you - it's called Dinner Diaries and it's by Betsy Block - she's the mother of two young kids and she's wondering, through all the noise and the conflicting information, about what to feed them. She devotes individual chapters to looking at nutritional needs and supplements, the plusses and minuses of eating fish, school lunches, local produce, etc. - a lot of what I talk about here and some of what I haven't gotten around to talking about yet. Her kids and her husband are all picky eaters in their own way so that complicates her task, which of course we can relate to as well. I was kind of annoyed at the amount of pork she relishes consuming - she's Jewish, and it seems to mean something to her, but kashrut is something she doesn't give a single thought to. But despite this, I do recommend the book.

One thing in the category of what she talks about that I haven't much yet is advertising directed at children. There was a wonderful book on this subject a few years ago called Consuming Kids by Susan Linn. (She runs the Center for a Commercial-Free Childhood.) She describes and decries the big business that is advertising to children, in which psychologists and other professionals are hired and billions of dollars are spent to figure out exactly which buttons to push to train our little ones to develop brand loyalty, consumer "needs" and the talent to beg and nag for what they want. The best time to do all this is when the parents aren't around to explain or deny, which is why there is so much advertising in schools and on the internet these days, particularly on "free" sites. This has contributed mightily to the lack of exercise, the obesity, the unhealthy eating habits, not to mention the consumerism that have become part and parcel of childhood in American today.

The reason I haven't felt the need to write too much about this is because we have an extremely restrictive television policy at home. Our kids basically watch TV twice a week - a movie on Saturday night, and then one show during the week. It's almost always a video, so we can avoid the advertising.

It so happens that in the last couple of weeks, perhaps exhausted by the summer, I've been a little lax in this. We've watched a little more TV this week because the Olympics were on and I wanted them to see some of it, and then last week for some reason I let them watch a couple of things on Cartoon Network. I watched with them, and boy, did I see what we'd been "missing." Clothing, games, movies, but especially food food food - the ones that stood out were for sugar cereals and a kind of bottled water (it may be flavored, it wasn't clear) that comes in a pouch. Pouches, in case I need to say it, are the worst form of conveyance, because they are not recyclable or biodegradable, but there is no profit to be made from a glass of tap water.

Can I just pause here for a radical moment and decry the fact that the worst things for you and for the environment are exactly the things that get the most advertising and the most attractive packaging in this society?

Oh, boy. If there was anything that made me understand why we've made the choices that we've made, for ourselves and for our kids, it was this hour of commercial television. There is just so much that is wrong that can be fixed, or at least ameliorated, by the absence of TV. Sedentary? Bad eating habits? The "beggies"? Have trouble having dinner time conversation? The first answer is to lose the TV - or if not lose it, then severely restrict it. And no TV in the kids' rooms!

This is only the first step, but it's the most major single step one can take.

1 comment:

Lisa @ Corporate Babysitter said...

Thanks for the book recommendation. And congratulations on avoiding the marketing directed at your kids by limiting TV. I don't think people realize how much junk comes through that little box.