So, it seems that another publication touting the benefits of parenting in the style of another country is in the news again. This particular book, Bringing Up Bebe, appears to have generated quite a debate. I personally think that there are so many different parenting styles across each country that it is not possible to say that one is “right,” or that one approach will work for every child. In addition, what works in one country will not necessarily work in another – there are complex cultural issues that cannot be “exported.”
For example, I was raised in England, a nation generally renowned for its manners. While parents account for a lot in terms of teaching these manners, they not alone in instilling them – they are (or were?) reinforced constantly everywhere: in schools, in shops… everywhere. I have five children (3 stepsons plus a son and a daughter) and have found that instilling my English manners without that additional reinforcement can be extremely difficult.
Reinforcement of parenting styles or approaches beyond the parental level can be helpful, but this can also be seen of something of a slippery slope – if a government intervenes in this kind of reinforcement, it often leads to cries that it is creating a nanny state. This claim was made in England when, in 2007, as a result of concerns about the rise in obesity among the population, new restrictions were introduced regulating televised advertisements of foods that are high in fat, salt or sugar that may be targeted at children. The aim of these restrictions is to improve children’s diets and tackle the rise in obesity.
The advertising system in the UK is primarily self-regulatory, backed up by legislation. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is an independent body established by the advertising industry to enforce the rules of the advertising codes. The ASA has a co-regulatory relationship with the Offices of Communication (OfCom) and works to regulate advertisers by implementing Advertising Codes. Broadcasters are required to adhere to these Codes and comply with any rulings from the ASA as part of their licensing agreement with OfCom. (Readers of this blog may remember OfCom from my Glee and the Mechanic post).
OfCom determined that advertising to children of food and drinks that are high in fat and sugar should be restricted. An extensive consultation process was undertaken in the early 2000’s and the result was that from April 1, 2007, any advertiser that wants to advertise food and drink on television at a time when children’s program’s are aired must now have the nutritional composition of their product assessed against the Nutrient Profiling Model. This model was developed by the Food Standards Agency and applies to all food and drink; there are no exempt categories.
The food and drink products are awarded points on two scales, based on 100 grams of food or drink. The first points, known as “A points,” are given for energy, saturated fat, total sugar and sodium, with the number of points awarded increasing with the content of each of these nutrients. Points are then awarded in a separate category, known as “C points.” These points are awarded for the percentage of (intact or minimally processed) fruit, vegetable or nuts, and grams of fiber and protein content. The total number of A points are then subtracted from the total number of C points. This calculation is altered slightly if the number of A points is more than eleven, and the number of C points is less than five – in this case any C points awarded for protein may not be included.
Food that scores four or more points, and drink that scores one or more points, are considered as “less healthy” and subject to restrictions on advertising during children’s television time. I am not quite sure what foods aimed at children pass these tests, but England may have been spared from some of the terrible junk food adverts that I’ve seen here in the U.S.