Monday, March 24, 2008

The best policies start at home

Parke Wilde at US Food Policy posed the question, "Should the government sharply regulate marketing to children? Or should parents fend for themselves as they seek to transmit their values to their kids?"

My answer is a minimal governmental intervention and a lot more parental intervention.

For any policy to be effective, I believe it really comes down to the individual (in this case, the parent) being the main enforcer. And parents should be the main advocates for their children. Sure, there are laws against trafficking illicit drugs, yet you always hear public service announcements telling parents to talk to their kids about drugs. The laws and enforcement aren't enough to keep drugs away from your kids. It seems pretty clear to me that the best policies start at home.

For example, if adverstising has little influence, then why is so much money put into it? I would think by now that if it wasn't effective, the money would have gone elsewhere. As I commented on Parke's blog, "Doing without is an important value I want to transmit to our kids, and to live out as a parent. What's the point in limiting advertising to kids if their parents are always going out and getting the newest, cutting-edge stuff without restraint?" (Well, my punctuation was not so correct in the comment, so I fixed it here.)

Sure, not everything is foolproof. And by no means parents are to pretend they are perfect. There are times children don't "turn out" the way their parents hoped they would, no matter how involved they were. Then there are kids who "turned out ok" with no involvement from their parents. That's reality. But that doesn't mean parents shouldn't do anything neither should they expect someone else to do most of the work. Many lives have been enriched because the best policies were learned -- at home.

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