On June 5, the children’s powerhouse we know as Disney stood alongside First Lady Michelle Obama and announced that all products advertised on its television channels, radio stations, and websites must comply with a strict, new set of nutritional standards. These restrictions will also extend to Saturday morning cartoons on the ABC stations that Disney owns. Though these changes won’t take place until 2015 because of contracts with certain companies, they will apply to any programming aimed at kids ages 12 and under.
As a parent of a 5-year-old who lives for the Disney Channel and its characters, I’m more than thrilled that they are making all possible efforts to ensure that they instill in my child the value of a healthy lifestyle. Let’s face it people, as parents in this day and age we do all we can to spend as much time as we can with our children, but with busy schedules and hectic lives sometimes the boob tube has to entertain. I don’t know about you, but I would rather her watch quality television on a regular basis as opposed to always watching something that isn’t teaching her anything. Programs that are only entertaining are alright to watch here and there, but children (who are still so young and impressionable) should usually watch something meaningful with positive messages.
Since 1980, childhood obesity has tripled leaving approximately 12.5 million kids aged 2-19 diagnosed as obese. Disney’s new restrictions means that products like Capri Sun and Kraft Lunchables won’t be allowed to advertise on the Disney networks until they become more health conscience, and any cereal with more than 10 grams of sugar it will get no air play whatsoever. I took a look and it seems my daughter’s favorite cereal, Lucky Charms, is just barely in the clear with 10 grams.
Disney says they will also reduce sodium by 25% in the children’s meals that are served at their theme parks. All Disney-approved products will be marked with a logo. This logo will be Mickey Mouse ears with a green check mark inside and the logo will say “Good for You-Fun Too!” By the end of the year, these "Mickey checks" will appear on licensed food products, qualified recipes on Disney.com and Family.com, and on menus and select products at Disney parks and resorts. This will not only help kids make better eating choices, it will also help parents to prepare healthier meals and make better food choices for their families.
This isn’t the first time Disney has put its foot down when it came to children’s health. In 2006, Disney stopped the use of its name and characters appearing in unhealthy children’s foods. Within months, Nickelodeon and Discovery Kids did the same thing. When big name brands like Disney do things like this, companies have no choice but to reform their products if they want to advertise to kids 12 and under. Though Disney acknowledged that they would lose money with this move, they feel it’s well worth it. Disney chairman Robert Iger strongly felt that “companies in a position to help with solutions to childhood obesity should do just that.” I totally agree with him. If you have the power to make a change, why stay silent? Some parents may think that Disney is trying to force their kids to eat certain things, but that’s not the case. Like I said, children are impressionable. The more positive things that children are exposed to, the better their chances are for making positive decisions.
I already love the fact that Disney uses Pass the Plate and the Magic of Healthy Living to help pass along the message of leading a healthy lifestyle. Along with healthy eating, Pass the Plate teaches kids about foods in other countries. The Magic of Healthy Living teaches everything from proper serving size to exercise habits. The first lady has participated in a few Healthy Living commercials. In one commercial, she shared some gardening tips with a few Disney Channel stars. In another, she shoots some hoops. Disney is doing their best to give kids the foundation for a healthy life, and I for one am glad.