Childrearing

The Latest Creative Way To Avoid Responsible Parenting? Blame Corporations!

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One of my pet peeves when it comes to parenting is how some people just don’t want to take responsibility for parenting. Rather than do the difficult job of watching their children, monitoring their behavior, setting limits and, well, parenting, they ask for outside intervention to help them. Who cares if it restricts other people’s freedom! So you see movements where people, completely unable to say “no” to their children, demand that the government step in and do their job. Not only is this a violation of parental freedom and the freedom of people to run their businesses the way they’d like, it’s also expensive and unhelpful to parents.

Joel Bakan has an op-ed in the New York Times that touches on this. He begins in a promising fashion, talking about the child-saving movement of the late 19th century, which worked to combat child labor. Then he complains about how corporations, made up of people, are treated (legally speaking) as people:

A clash between these two newly created legal entities — children and corporations — was, perhaps, inevitable. Century-of-the-child reformers sought to resolve conflicts in favor of children. But over the last 30 years there has been a dramatic reversal: corporate interests now prevail. Deregulation, privatization, weak enforcement of existing regulations and legal and political resistance to new regulations have eroded our ability, as a society, to protect children.

Childhood obesity mounts as junk food purveyors bombard children with advertising, even at school. A recent Kaiser Family Foundation study reports that children spend more hours engaging with various electronic media — TV, games, videos and other online entertainments — than they spend in school. Much of what children watch involves violent, sexual imagery, and yet children’s media remain largely unregulated. Attempts to curb excesses — like California’s ban on the sale or rental of violent video games to minors — have been struck down by courts as free speech violations.

OK, do you honestly think that a pre-teen looking at a box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch is the equivalent of working in the mines?

I actually don’t like advertising directed at children and I go out of my way to avoid it. It’s somewhat difficult, considering that even the DVDs we check out at the library are filled with advertising (for other DVDs and such). But it has never in a million years occurred to me that it was anyone’s job other than my own to monitor what my children are watching, what they are eating, and how much time they spend in front of a screen.

The quicker parents realize that the government is not their co-parent, nanny or assistant, the better for the family. Sure, it’s not always my favorite thing to direct my children to healthier activities than “cartoon watching” but I do it. I am their parent. Only my husband and I love them enough to care about what they’re putting into their bodies and brains. Massive regulatory regimes to deal with the “problem” of children enjoying a bowl of sugary cereal every once in a while? Come on.

Regulation is needed. But the regulation that’s needed must come from the parents. Tell your kids how much television they can watch and when until they’re old enough to regulate themselves. Don’t rely on the government to fix all of life’s problems for you and them. That doesn’t work out well.