Assaults on the innocence of children — but at least it's only for money

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One of the greatest harbors for sanctimony is when something is “for the children.” Children are the future, you know.

It’s not that I object to child protection as a motivation. I have a child, and I take seriously my role as one of his caregivers, guides, and educators. It’s going to take a lot more than me to care for, guide, and educate him, but it has to start with my wife and I.

What I object to, other than rank sanctimony of any kind, is how horribly unevenly “child protection” is defined.

Because of many church sexual-abuse scandals and other revelations, we haven’t protected nearly as well as we thought, but regarding sexual predation of minors, at least we talk a good game. Any sexual contact with a minor is not only illegal but very grave, as it should be.

But of commercial predation — corporate behemoths targeting children in marketing — we not only don’t object, we actually have a federal law that protects it. In the ‘70s, the Federal Trade Commission started considering curbs on marketing to kids and, under an onslaught of lobbying by the food, advertising, and broadcasting industries, Congress barred the commission from acting.

Marketers would object, but this comparison of predations could not be more apt. Society has spoken expressly that before a certain age, youngsters are not capable of making a reasoned decision. So even if, say, a 15-year-old was an eager participant in sexual contact with an adult, we call it rape.

And yet, as staid an establishment voice as the American Psychological Association says that children under 8 years are incapable of distinguishing corporate puffery from objective truth. So when, say, McDonald’s or Coca-Cola advertises to toddlers and other young people on TV or, increasingly, the web, they are diddling merely with a different children’s private part — their minds.

Both intrusions have unhealthy, long-term effects.

So the next time you talk about all you’re willing to do “for the children,” especially if they’re yours, please think about how much you protect them from the people who would manipulate your prized ones, in pursuit of higher profit.

Theft of innocence is not only a physical process.


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