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Sunday, August 21, 2011

Let's move honestly with our kids


Let's Move! was launched in February 2010, by Michelle Obama to address childhood obesity in America. The goal of the organization is to wipe out rampant childhood obesity within a generation.

By involving kids, schools and parents with a variety of educational and physical activities, Let's Move! is committed to reversing the trend toward overeating and underactive kids. While arguments can be made over what constitutes overweight, particularly in a very active child with healthy eating habits, the goal of sending a message of how important diet and exercise are to maintain health is a good one.

The effort's website is full of statistics that will likely raise any reader's concerns about just how sedentary childhood life has become. The volume of junk food consumed and television watched and video games played in place of outdoor activities is staggering. On average, Americans consumes 31 percent more calories and 15 more pounds of sugar a year than they did 40 years ago.

There's no question that finding a way to reverse this trajectory is important. And parents are a primary group targeted by Let's Move! to get the job done. Parents are encouraged to share tips online with other parents and are provided with healthy menus to feed their families.

There are also a slew of public service announcements (PSAs) that run online and as television advertisements to make the case. And it's in one of these PSAs that Let's Move! seems to have gone off cue in helping parents share the values with their children that may lead to a healthier, more active lifestyle.

I first saw the PSA when I was pumping gas and viewing those short videos that are displayed on a screen at the top of the pump. Inthe PSA, a young girl runs downstairs shouting to her mother in the kitchen that she wants a dollar. The mother glances at her purse on the counter next to her and starts to say, "Sure, it's right..." and then stops. "I think my purse is upstairs on the bed." The daughter shouts back that it's not there and then the mother suggests she try the dining room, her sister's room, and basically gets her to run around the house looking for the purse.

Eventually, the daughter comes to the kitchen, the mother laughs, and gives her daughter the dollar while the voice announces: "Moms everywhere are finding ways to keep kids active and healthy."

In the scheme of things, it may not seem a big deal. But while we're trying to get parents to instill good eating habits in their children, wouldn't it make sense to suggest they do so without lying to their kids? A small lie, perhaps, but a lie nonetheless and one that suggests to the kid that it might be appropriate to use a similar tact when she is trying to get someone to do something she wants her to do, say, her mother.

It shouldn't take a good parent much effort to find ways to keep their kids active without resorting to lies to get them to do so. Let's Move! has a terrific mandate. The right thing is for its PSAs to match the integrity of the program.

Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of The Right Thing:Conscience, Profit and Personal Responsibility in Today's Business, is a lecturer in public policy and director of the communications program at Harvard's Kennedy School.

Do you have ethical questions that you need answered? Send them to rightthing@comcast.net.

(c) 2011 JEFFREY L. SEGLIN. Distributed by Tribune MediaServices, Inc.

1 comment:

yawningdog said...

Lying to us to get us improve our behavior is a reoccurring pattern with our government.

I was in college in the 80's when HIV/AIDS first appeared on the scene. They were emphasizing transmission to and testing for heterosexual women as a way of getting people more aware of the disease even though at that time, heterosexual women had the least likely-hood of getting the disease.

And how about constantly telling every mother that she can and should breastfeed even though there are large number of women, like myself, that cannot successfully breast feed.

If is 'for our own good' the health department is happy to lie straight to our faces, why would they now baulk at telling parents to lie to their children?