Advertising Authorities Over-Protect Children
News this week that the Heinz food company in the UK have been forced to withdraw a TV advertisement have raised question about the lengths to which advertising authorities will go to protect children.
The ad featured pictures of children having fun using empty bean tins as drums.
This sorry episode raises two important considerations.
The first relates to the culture we’ve created when it comes to norms of behaviour.
We’ve established a culture of political correctness in this country in which even the slightest divergence from a narrowly defined norm causes offence.
The fact is that whilst you or I might find something slightly uncomfortable or irksome, it is not necessarily harmful or worthy of being banned from the public space.
No less important is the question of whether we are over-protecting children. It is right, of course, that we should be watchful of children and careful to ensure their safety.
However, hyper-nurturing children only reduces their opportunities for play, which forms an important part of their social and psychological development. Trying to create a totally non-threatening environment for youngsters simply produces adolescents and then adults who can’t adjust to life’s challenges. It produces young adults who are overly reliant on others for their decision-making.
A study of twenty-something Millennials a few years ago found that, by their own admission, many young adults found it almost impossible to manager their time whilst on holidays. Why? Because someone else had always done this for them – their parents had organised them in the home, their bosses had done so in the workspace.
The study revealed that they recognised in themselves a lack of self-reliance, which of course always carries a level of risk.
In the end, there are much worse things for children to face in the media and online than watching other kids play with empty tins. Solving problems associated with trolling, bullying and sexting, for example, fully deserve our focus and resources.
Agonising over whether children should be seen banging out a tune on empty tins merely serves as a distraction from much weightier and more harmful practices.
To hear Mal’s BBC interview on this issue, click here.