Monday, June 29, 2009

Consuming Kids

Yesterday afternoon, I ventured out of the house for the first time (by myself) since Miriam was born. A friend invited me to a showing of the film Consuming Kids: The Commercialization of Childhood at a local restaurant downtown. Click here to watch the Trailer on You Tube.

The film opened my eyes to a few things. I thought Jamey and I were pretty aware of how companies market to kids. Just a few weeks ago, he and I stopped at Target to pick up a couple things after a midwives' appointment- a rare opportunity for us to be out without the kids. One of the things we wanted to pick up was a pair of flip flops for Sam. Sadie had been handed down two pair and Sam really wanted a pair for himself. Do you know how hard it can be to find flip flops without Thomas or Power Rangers or Spiderman's image imprinted on them? Our kids only watch PBS and approved videos so they aren't exposed to commercials. Since Jamey and I don't watch kids' TV channels, I was really surprised at a lot of the commercials shown in the film.

Not only are advertisers trying to influence kids in regard to what toys, food, games, clothes, etc. they ask their parents to buy for them, they are targeting kids in an attempt to influence the purchases their parents make, too- non-kid purchases like cars, mini-vans, gas (yes, gasoline!), etc.

It may be obvious that marketers attempt to make kids brand loyal for life. There is a lot of money to be made and that is their job, of course. What really got to me was learning about the other ways that these advertisers are influencing kids.

Have you noticed that when they are trying to sell a product to a child, they don't talk much about the benefits of the product? You know, like how well it works? Instead they show how happy, cool and popular the kids are who use their toothpaste or buy their toy. It makes me really sad to think about how much this makes kids think that they will be happy if they have that product and worse yet, how they might make fun of or put down other kids who aren't "cool" because they don't have certain shoes or trading cards.

Also, if you watch closely, when they are marketing to girls, it's almost always about how great they'll look wearing something (jewelry, clothes, make-up, etc) and how they'll turn the boys' heads. For the boys, much of it is about action- often violent action- video games, action figures who fight, WWF wrestling, etc.

They also prey on kids' natural desires to be older. I remember always looking forward to my next birthday- those milestones mean new privileges and possibilities. Marketers are targeting younger and younger kids for items that most of us would agree are inappropriate for certain ages. For example, manicure and pedicure parties at salons for 6 year-olds. The film brought up the fact that these things are contributing to a loss of childhood- they're told to act, look and stomach images (when it comes to violence) in a way that only older kids/teenagers were told to in years past.

Most of my thoughts and information above have come directly from the film. What I found myself thinking about on my way home was how hard it can be for us as parents to decide where lines should be drawn when it comes to this issue and many others. In this case, at the very least, we need to be in conversation with our children (starting at a very young age) about what advertisements (in magazines, on billboards, on the internet) and commercials are all about- that they are trying to sell us something and they will do whatever they have to do to make it look good and to convince us we need it.

On the other end of the spectrum, we can take another approach. Decide what is best for our kids, and then make it happen. Even if fussing and tantrums ensue. We are ourselves the adults, right?

If you are interested in hosting a screening of this film or to find out more about how you can help speak out against this type of marketing, click here to go to the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood's website.

This concludes my public service announcement:-). Pin It

1 comment:

  1. From your title I thought you were going to talk about eating your children for dinner.... (Okay, not really---I knew what you meant!)

    By the way, Dollar General has great non-commercial flip-flops for one buck a pair.


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