Saturday, December 18, 2010
Can You Blame McDonald's??
Is it really Ronald and his team? The Center for Science in Public Interest (CSPI) thinks so. Earlier this week CSPI filed a lawsuit against the fast food giant claiming that it is in violation of California's consumer protection laws, as it targets children under 8 years old with the ever lucrative "Happy Meal" and the toy it contains. The organization alleges that these kids do not have the ability to understand advertising stating that, "It's unfair to kids, they are being totally manipulated, and it's unfair to parents."
The lawsuit is being filed on behalf of the parents. One of the parents being represented says, "I object to the fact that McDonald's is getting into my kids' heads without my permission and actually changing what they want to eat." Okay, let's stop right there.
I don't know about you, but I don't think there are too many kids, under 8 years old, rolling into McDonald's ordering and paying for a "Happy Meal" by themselves. I may be wrong but I'm fairly confident. So who's really to blame here. Yes, it's true that kids see the commercials for McDonald's and want the 'toy' and the "Happy Meal", but is it really any different than advertisements for other toys and food products? Let's say that during Saturday morning cartoons a 6 year old sees a commercial for legos and decides that he/she wants them. The child goes to Walmart with mom or dad, sees the legos and (this is going to be a shocker...) begs his/her parent to buy them. We're talking crying, yelling, making a scene here - you know you've seen it. Based on my own experiences, (thanks mom), and observations it is HIGHLY unlikely that this child will be taking the legos home today. How is this different than a plea to go to McDonald's? Is it not ultimately the parents' decision as to whether or not the car stops there? And, again I'm going to go out on a limb here but my guess is that the same parents buying a "Happy Meal" for their child are also ordering a #3 with a Coke for themselves.
It's a classic example of "monkey see - monkey do". Children learn from their parents or guardians and it is ultimately the holder of the keys and wallet that makes the decision. Now deciding against a stop at the Golden Arches may end in tears and an upset child - but I'm fairly certain it won't result in death. Studies have shown that a child's diet is largely influenced by that of his/her parents and his/her food environment. Here is an example of one such study. I wrote an entire paper on this in college - it's not an isolated case...
Now, I am in no way a fast food advocate and I could honestly care less if McDonald's loses a few million dollars, but I do question where the responsibility lies. Think about it. Whose side are you on? Who is ultimately responsible for making the decision? If it's the child, things have sure changed since I was growing up. I don't have kids of my own, but I know I won't be taking my niece and nephew out for "Happy Meals" anytime soon. If you are a parent I challenge you to step up and take responsibility, set a positive example for your children and remember that it doesn't include ordering up a #3 with a Coke.