Childhood obesity is a serious issue, but most of us tend to handle it with kid gloves; being a fat kid is a classic childhood trauma, without extra analysis or blame from doctors and public health campaigns. But recent ads in Georgia are pushing the envelope: While some consider them fat-shaming, others consider them a painful but necessary message to the families of kids who are overweight. In any case, they urge us to consider: Are parents to blame for childhood obesity?
As we posted earlier, the ads take a brutal look at what it’s like to be a kid who’s obese. “I don’t like going to school because all the other kids pick on me. It hurts my feelings,” says Tina, a young girl featured in one of the ads. “75% of parents of overweight kids ignore the problem. Just ask Bobby,” says another of the ads, which features an obese boy sitting across from his obese mother, asking “Mom, why am I fat?”
Not only do the ads take a risky tack by sending the message that being fat is bad, which many say could trigger eating disorders or even worse self-esteem among kids who feel insecure about their weight, they also clearly place blame on parents for the weight and health of their kids.
And indeed, many Blisstree readers agree that parents should take responsibility for their kids diet and lifestyle. A couple of the comments from our earlier post about the ad campaign highlight the argument for holding parents to blame:
I just spent a week with my 9 yr old nephew from Georgia. He has two chins and gets red-faced and winded from walking, yet he was allowed to choose mac and cheese, Doritos and soda for dinner. Parents who don’t teach their offspring healthy diet and exercise habits are not doing their job.
I agree the parents are to blame. They should be made to see the consequences of what they are doing to their children by encouraging and unhealthy lifestyle. Don’t attack the little ones, they need positive support/education, not bullying.
But plenty of other campaigns against childhood obesity take a different approach; many see school as the primary place to encourage better habits in kids. Take Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign, for example: Rather than attacking families or trying to educate kids in their homes, it’s using school as the primary place to learn about healthy habits like eating more fresh vegetables and exercising more. And Jaime Oliver, another big advocate of childhood health, has attacked American school cafeterias vehemently; his effort to educate parents and families has been a far quieter battle.
Many kids do eat more meals at school than at home, and with a growing number of American families on meal programs that provide nutrition through cafeterias, there’s a good case for staging the battle against childhood obesity in schools instead of in homes. But the argument against campaigns like the Oliver’s and Obama’s is that, plain and simple: They don’t work. And whatever time is spent around teachers and peers, many still argue that parents and family are responsible for teaching values—including health.
We want to know what you think: Are Georgia’s anti-obesity ads pointing their finger at the wrong people? Take our poll:
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