Disney’s Banning Junk Food

Recently, Disney announced its television networks and radio stations will be banning advertisements featuring junk food. The official move won’t take effect until 2015. However, it still concerns me because the ban could be a very bad idea.

What does Disney think this is going to achieve? It is not a health advocacy organization. It specializes in family entertainment. The only people the ban is going to please is the parents. For now, anyway.

The effects could be much worse in the long run. Not exposing kids to certain things that might be bad for them, it heightens their curiosity because it seems forbidden. Even if they don’t see junk food on TV, they are certainly going to see it elsewhere. Kids are going to find junk food more intriguing than if they saw commercials for it every day. Certain foods are simply more appealing. Not presenting those foods are only going to make them more coveted and attractive. It is also not going to prevent other parents from buying junk food. When the obesity levels don’t go down and kids are still eating junk food, who will the parents have to blame?

The problem is that parents want to avoid responsibility. Television is only a diversion and does not cause their problems. They do not determine anyone’s moral code, especially not commercials. Parents want to believe that the mostly insignificant breaks in the middle of a television schedule are what’s ruining their children’s health. It is simply not true. Bad parenting and not teaching moderation are what is ruining their children’s health.

There is also certainly money to be made in junk food. Currently, Disney branded sugary cereals and fruit snacks are sold in supermarkets everywhere. Kids are going to wonder why they are gone. Junk food is going to be eaten and craved anyway. No one can deny it. Why should parents lie to themselves? Why shouldn’t kids be exposed and taught self-control?

Disney does not care about kids getting healthier. It is a media company that targets kids. All it can really get out of this is good publicity and approval from parents, which will only last so long.

Disney’s job is to entertain and to appeal to the masses. Junk food ads help to do that and to bring in money. When this ban takes effect and kids are still overweight, nothing will be solved. The fact that commercials will be more insignificant and irrelevant than they already are will just be an added side-effect.

Posted on June 7, 2012, in Commercials, Disney and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. As most company’s roles are just to “entertain” or “make money” or whatever generalized goal they have, that does not alleviate the opportunity for sustainability efforts. In this case, Disney is using their reputation to begin their efforts in healthier lifestyles, as many celebrities support causes in hopes that their current fame will attract support. In addition, sure, children will still constantly be exposed to junk food in other areas of their lives. But ceasing to deliver the message on their channel will decrease a child’s exposure to these foods exponentially, which will contribute to the efforts of healthier lifestyles. As for the parents, I do not believe they support these efforts so they dont have to deal with their kids whining for the food. As i respect your opinion i feel that a little more research into the subject would benefit your train of thought.

  2. Sam,

    I am the editor of this blog. First off, I would like to thank you for your comment and opinion.

    You do have a point. However, I am convinced this is a publicity ploy because they have decided to jump on the bandwagon. Michele Obama has been all over television lately campaigning for healthy eating and sustainability. Also, Disney has to wait until 2015 before the ban goes into effect because of existing contracts. It is possible that Disney will rescind its statement in the next 2 and a half years, especially if they prove to be extremely lucrative.

    To be fair, Disney has made 100 calorie packs with chocolate Cars characters and Disney princesses, so there is a precedent for their announcement. On the other hand, it could have made the announcement much sooner.

    As someone who grew up in the 1990s with constant exposure to junk food adds on children’s channels, I do not think those commercials are entirely responsible my food choices because my parents educated me about good choices. My mother set boundaries when it came to food. Yes, she would buy the box of Cocoa Puffs because I wanted it, but she would make sure I knew how many servings were in the box and not to eat it in one sitting.

    Jeremy was not saying he thinks parents support this measure because they do not want to deal with children whining for the food. He was saying that some parents do not want to take responsibility for their children and remove these commercials will not change them. I know people who raise their children to believe that french fries and potato chips are vegetables.
    For responsible parents, the commercials can open up an important dialogue about junk food and consumerism that might not exist otherwise.


  3. Jeremy Einbinder

    I would like to thank you for your comment as well. I will also say that there’s familiarity in junk food ads and as Allison pointed out, it can lead to an open discussion about food choices, especially if parents are watching TV wih their children. Yes, you are right that ceasing to deliver the message will decrease exposure exponentially. That was the point I was trying to refute. I do not believe that decrease in exposure is good for anyone, especially children. Their minds need to be open, and they also need to be entertained and informed. Junk food ads may do both. While it is certainly important not to have too much of anything, it is also important to note that decrease of exposure leads to less of an opportunity for true education and the importance of moderation. The responsible parents will educate their kids about what may be dangerous when it comes to food comsumption. The irresponsible parents will not. While some may agree that ceasing to deliver the message stops the craving for it. I do not believe that is true. What Disney and parents of kids who watch it are doing is relying on the ignorance of their children. While that is an often tested form of education, informing children of elements of society more often, whether good or bad, is what I believe to be far more effective.

  4. Sam, I agree with your point on a few levels. However, how would we know if Disney really cared about sustainability efforts? Do they really care about kids’ health? There’s no way for us to tell for certain. Businesses are slowly using these sustainability efforts to gain a competitive edge. They can differentiate themselves from Nickelodeon by being the channel that doesn’t advertise junk food.

    One thing that’s for certain is that Disney blew this out in the media to put their brand in a positive light. I can also tell you that public corporations do everything for the bottom line, otherwise they board would be ousted.

    Great post Jeremy, I think your thoughts are very insightful.

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