Children are taught from a fairly young age about the need to take responsibility for their actions. The classic tale is of Billy and Johnny standing next to a window, which has, had a brick thrown through it. An adult finding this asks who did this? To which Billy replies, “I did but only because Johnny told me to.”

Whilst Johnny may well get reprimanded for telling Billy to throw a brick through a window, Billy will be punished and told very clearly “just because Johnny tells you to do something does not mean you have to do it. a cliff would you do it? ” The answer to this is of course no.

So the child learns that despite being egged on by peers, he needs to decide his own actions and not seek to blame others for his actions. Parents and teachers are charged with the job of teaching children about taking responsibility for their actions so that they can grow up to be responsible citizens.

It is therefore somewhat bizarre to see how often adults do not only use a variation of the excuse above but that adults are actually encouraged to use this excuse. I am of course referring to advertising. Who encourages adults to use the Johnny told me excuse- public health advocates.

The recent Health Reform Taskforce in Australia again raised the issue of “banning” junk food advertising. This has been mooted before and is leapt on with glee by public health advocates who argue that it is an essential part of the battle against obesity.

Now wait a minute. How exactly does an ad make you obese? Apparently people are influenced by the ads and then go out and buy (and consume) foods, which are not good for them. Apparently if the ads were not there people would not do this.

Translated this is health officials telling the adult population that they are absolved from the responsibility of what they out in their mouths by being able to say “the ad told me to”. What must the average five year old who has just been sent to their bedroom for misbehavior make of this?

The other line run is that advertising in children's viewing time should be banned as children pressure their parents into buying the foods advertised. Hello !! This is little Johnny in reverse. It is now assumed that parents are so inept that they can not decide what grocery items to buy. Being a parent means making decisions-some of which children may not like.

The bottom line is that the only person responsible for your actions is you. This is actually very empowering because if there is an aspect of your life that you are not happy with, you have the absolute power to change it.

It starts with being responsible for what you do.


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