Free Happy Meal For Good Grades?
McDonald’s has now hit a new low in their practices of marketing to children. As if it weren’t enough that fast food restaurants spend $3 Billion dollars a year on advertising directed at children, they now adorn report card envelopes in Seminole County, Florida with the message “Reward Yourself With A Happy Meal From McDonalds.” So what happened to McDonald’s pledge to reduce its advertising to children under 12 by January 2008? Yet the coupons were for children from kindergarten through fifth grade. This slick advertising campaign is scheduled to run through the end of the 2007/2008 school year. So what do the parents think? In a press release from the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood, one parent states “My daughter worked so hard to get good grades this term and now she believes she is entitled to a prize from McDonald’s. And now I’m the bad guy because I had to explain that our family does not eat at fast-food chains.” The school district sold out children and parents for the mere $1,600 cost of printing the report cards. For the bargain rate of less than 6 cents per family per year, McDonald’s is able to send their advertising to all 27,000 elementary school kids in Seminole County at least three times. Doesn’t print advertising usually cost more than this?
This promotion really begs the question, is it appropriate to reward good grades with junk-food? Is this what we want our children to reward their own achievements with when they grow up? What kind of reward would send a better message? What about something that involves a parent spending time with the child? It doesn’t necessarily have to cost money. For a younger child, a trip to a favorite playground could be a good motivator. Or going hiking together. In warmer climates or in warm weather a trip to the beach could be a good incentive. In the winter, maybe a drive to a location that has a good sledding hill. For a small amount of money, the child can be rewarded with a trip to a children’s museum on a Saturday or to see a movie during the inexpensive afternoon matinee. Parent and child can choose an project from a craft store to make together. Take a trip to the bookstore and pick out a new book together. Wouldn’t a reward that stimulates the mind and provides a bonding experience send a better message?