Thursday, November 20, 2008

Marketing to Kids

A couple of books I've read this month talk about how corporations market to kids, and about the detrimental effects of this: Taking Back Childhood, by Nancy Carlsson-Paige, and Consuming Kids, by Susan Linn. Taking Back Childhood doesn't spend a lot of time on the subject, as it has a more general purpose, but does have some good things to say about it. But Consuming Kids is an in-depth study of the issue. I highly recommend the book, but beware, it's very disturbing and will make you wonder whether you should get rid of your TV altogether, and never, ever eat at McDonalds! I'll never look at Ronald McDonald the same way, as, according to this book, his sole purpose is to pit children against their parents, and teach them that things such as school and trips to museums are boring and that McDonald's is a thrilling antidote to them!

Reading these books has made me want to DO SOMETHING about the problem. I protect my own children pretty ferociously from advertising, which isn't too hard to do when their young. We watch primarily videos and DVDs, and if there's something we must watch on TV, we tape it and skip the ads. Also we talk about ads we happen to see, about how they are trying to get people to want what they don't need. However, as my kids get older and spend more time away from me, this will be harder to do. And what about the millions of children who are exposed to this stuff constantly? As Consuming Kids says, people who grow up constantly bombarded with the message that buying stuff makes you happy, are not the sort of people who will be capable of thinking for themselves and thus contributing to a vital democracy.

But what can be done? Both of these books spent some time talking about that, which I thought was fabulous. So many books of cultural criticism I read leave me feeling hopeless, as though there was nothing I could do to help the problem. But apparently there are many groups out there who are campaigning for rules that would keep corporations from marketing to children. One good group is Commercial Alert. You can click on the the "Take Action" button to see how you can help. One other note: Marketing to children used to be prohibited by law, until it was deregulated in the 1980s. (Thanks Reagan!) Perhaps these organizations can help convince the next administration to regulate marketing once again!

Here are some other websites that are working against commercialization of childhood:
1. Media Education Foundation
2. Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood

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