Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Commercialization of Childhood

Well, it's gearing up to be that time of year again when the store ads go out in full force and you cannot sit down to watch a tv show without being bombarded with commercials about all the things you HAVE to have this holiday season. 

Most of the time i don't give *too* much thought to this (although lately i have been getting rather annoyed with tv ads), but now that i have a daughter that i'm raising i'm giving more thought to the things around me.

And one thing that makes me sick is the over commercialization of children! 

Everywhere you turn someone is trying to sell something geared towards a child. Books, movies, toys, food, vacations, mouth wash, cars, cell phones, music, on and on and on.  It's all over the place.  And the sad and sick thing is they start from the very beginning!  Just take a stroll down the local baby aisle at the store and you'll see diapers with cartoon characters and baby shampoo with the same.  Why should a baby care who is on their shampoo bottle?  But the advertising departments of companies know that if they can get a child hooked on a brand as early as possible they have a better chance of having a customer for life.  So they are going to put characters that children (even babies!) recognize and love so they will want the product.

I for one am trying not to fall for it.  I *really* hate the over commercialization of everything around us.  I'm trying to put my foot down and limit the items our daughter has that are commercialized.  I don't want all her toys, clothes, food, etc to be covered in "advertising" (and in children's terms this normally means a cartoon character).  I want her to grow up to be able to think for herself and be free from the problems that arise from too much commercialization. 

As i mentioned before in my post, 'More Natural Play Please', i want our children to play with toys that build the imagination.  But often times when children play with toys from their 'favorite tv show' they only mimic what they saw on tv, instead of using past experiences and actually playing with their imagination. 

I just want our children to be free from the idea that things bring happiness.  I don't' want my children to think that in order to have a good meal it HAS to be from a name brand box, or in order to be 'cool' they HAVE to have the clothes from a certain store, etc etc.  Not only do i want them to have their *own* image, but i also don't want them to be a slave to the advertising industries and throwing money down the drain for things that do not matter, and will not bring true happiness. 

And this is why i'm trying to have toys that encourage imagination play, toys free from logos and strict rules.  It's why we do not have a TV in our home.  I know i can't shelter my children forever, but at least home can be a safe haven from the pressure from all around.

And if you've read all this and think that i'm some crazy nut of a mother, i encourage you to watch this documentary on the subject that i found on the Waldorf Today website.  It's called 'Consuming Kids: The Commercialization of Childhood'.  It's an hour long documentary that talks about how these companies specifically target our children, how they study them to figure out how to sell things better to children, how to get children to throw the best fits to get what they want and how much money we are wasting, and how our children are loosing their childhood.


The part i find most disturbing is around minute mark 40 when they start talking about how they are targeting BABIES to sell their products.  I think once you watch this fill you will be just about as disturbed as i am.
After you watch this film, please, share your thoughts with me, i'd love to hear them!


Hannah said...

Oh, that's a huge issue. Very important. We're a very techy family and I know my children will be using computers and other devices from a young age. Tobias can identify and use an iPad, iPod, iPhone, (HP) TouchPad, various types of cameras, etc.

We don't have a TV, but the message that your value or at least your happiness, comes from the excitement of acquiring things or the coolness of the specific things you acquire, is everywhere.

For now, we limit (probably not enough) how much video he watches and keep it age appropriate (He watches Winnie the Pooh while sitting on the potty, etc.). We have a no-battery-toys-until-you're-old-enough-to-charge-the-batteries rule, which limits the amount of cartoony things coming into our house, and I avoid clothing with brand names and logos visible on it.

When he's old enough I plan on teaching about advertising, how it's designed to deceive, and most importantly, I want to teach him where his worth comes from. It's hard to teach something that I think almost all adults struggle with to some extent.

I would, for various reasons, prefer most change to come from pressure from parent groups rather than the government regulating media. Other than that sentiment, I really agreed with this video! Thanks for posting!

fotochikyo said...

I do not agree with a lot of points in this movie and I do agree with a lot of points. I believe whole heartedly in a free market system and that parents are ultimately responsible for their children. I understand that there are parents who work and send their kids to daycare and school who may not have many other options but the majority of parents choose to work and send their kids to daycare to be raised by somebody else in order to consume themselves or for their children/families. That is where the problem lies.

I do NOT like the pressing message in the film that it is the fault of the government for not regulating more. A problem ONLY gets worse if the government feels it their responsibility to decide what is and what is not appropriate for our families.

However, there are strong moral messages in the film that I agree with and were sickening to watch. For example the extreme violence in media and extreme sexuality.

When I was a child it was during the 80's and 90's and I know there were times that I spent way longer than I should have playing my older brothers sega, but for the most part, I played outside and imagined and had lots of free creative play. I think a huge part of that was because my mother stayed home a lot of my childhood years and because even if we did ask for products we saw on TV food or otherwise they didn't just buy it for us, even when we threw fits. It's because of a little thing I like to call discipline. My parents almost never bought processed media targeted food and we only received toys such as cabbage patch kids and my little pony on our birthday or christmas.

I know that I struggle with too much TV time for my child and it is something I am working on as a new mother. But I will never blame the government or a corporation because my child wants something they saw on TV or the computer or an ad on a bus because ultimately I am responsible for how I respond to my child's request. Blaming the government and the free market system is just as bad as all of these socialists behind 'occupy wall street' which is sickening and atrocious in itself.

On the subject of schools buying advertising and our children being exposed to it, that is exactly why I am planning on home schooling my children or having them attend a thomas jefferson education charter school. That is the only way that I know my child will not be alienated from me and my family. It is a perfect example of the lack of integrity of the public school system and why I will not blindly trust and establishment that does not have my child's best interest and never will because it is run by the government!

Alright, I am going to end my soapbox but that is my personal opinion of this leftist propaganda documentary which to me is no better than media being targeted at our children.

One more thing, baby einstein is SO dumb!

Jillyn said...

GREAT resonses ladies! Thank you so much for adding your insight and opinions!

Hannah: I love your 'We have a no-battery-toys-until-you're-old-enough-to-charge-the-batteries rule'! what a great idea :D I don't know if we'd stick with it, but i do love it.

and both Hannah and fotochickyo, i agree that change should come from the public, not the government. It scares me when the government gets too much control and they influence everything around us. I think it's the parents responsibility to stand up for what they believe in and show people who's boss!

But i did enjoy (or not enjoy) the movie for the fact of showing you how crafty these organizations are and trying to sell things to our children and what all their tactics are so that we can be aware of them as parents.