Amber W. let us know about the “Consuming Kids” video, which looks at how marketers target kids, both for their own spending power and for their influence over parents’ spending.
See also hyper-consumerism and parenting, girl culture, girls’ shirts encourage materialism, “born to shop” pacifier, kids and their stuff, good parenting through consumption, and more commodification of kids and parenting.Gwen Sharp is an associate professor of sociology at Nevada State College. You can follow her on Twitter at @gwensharpnv.
T — September 12, 2009
Holy fucking shit.
Samantha C — September 12, 2009
Hm...I've only watched the first two parts so far, but I can't say I really agree with the tone of this video. I do think it's a fascinating point, how saturated the kids' market is with advertising, and i think it's something that parents need to be aware of. But the tone of the documentary is so *negative* about it. It's clearly calling for more regulation, as if the government saying "it's not our place to prevent marketers from doing their job and making money" is a terrible irresponsible thing.
I don't know, I don't think that advertising is evil. I think it works. Yes, marketers are going to market to children, because children will influence the parents' decisions. I don't think it's a social evil that a 5-year-old is going to prefer a box of Spongebob mac and cheese to a generic one, and it's not like the companies usually charge extravagent amounts of extra money for a Dora the Explorer backpack compared to a solid-color one. I'm not sharing the outrage. I think we need to teach kids about advertising, and how to recognize it, but I'm not really understanding why the documentary thinks that a brand-identified culture is so horrendous.
T. — September 12, 2009
Samantha, keep watching. I'm a counsellor, and the impact the branding has on children's sense of community and identity is terrifying. I have noticed a growing trend in clients who have no ability to regulate their own emotions because they have been taught to try to buy happiness, and it will never work.
Jane — September 12, 2009
The evil in advertising is, in fact, that the first message is the idea that you are not alright without buying products.
Carla — September 12, 2009
Ridiculous. Parents need to accept responsibility for their own children. If you park your kids in front of a TV, it isn't the advertiser's fault. The fact that people think that someone else should be responsible because they raised an entitled brat who can only find happiness in consumption is laughable.
T. — September 12, 2009
What's laughable Carla is that advertisers and companies are permitted to manipulate (via psychologist consultants and research) and it's the parents that are seen as the bad guys. That is not to say we all don't have personal responsibility, but we also only have a finite amount of energy and resources when families and people are seen as singular entities rather than a larger community or whole. How are average citizens supposed to compete with a cadre of professionals trained in understanding human thoughts and desires?
And as someone in the field of psychology and with a degree in it, I find that psychologist doing this research and contributing to this are performing highly unethical work. If only we had our own version of the hippocratic oath.
Emma — September 12, 2009
I really wish they had left out the obesity terror at the end of the film.
AR — September 12, 2009
Even supposing a parent did isolate their child from such manipulative advertisements, what good would it do? People do not become skilled or mature simply by aging, and there is little reason to believe that someone isolated from social manipulation would become skilled at it on their own. Does not naivete generally go with ease of manipulation? Since you can be sure that it will enter into their adult life sooner or latter, what better place to start lessons and experience with such a serious thing than with toys and allowances?
Adam — September 13, 2009
I'm somewhere between the two arguments of "it's the parents jobs to protect their kids" and "the parents have no power". In a sense, both arguments are true.
Here's how I see it: Being involved in the field of advertising(I'm a graphic designer), I have a basic understanding of the power of persuasion - and it is powerful. Humans are, by their very nature, followers. We're constantly sold on the idea of individualism and uniqueness, but we're not. Really, we're not. We are pack animals. You need only work in retail for a day to see the clear effectiveness of the simple sentence: "it's a very popular item". You should see the relaxed, passive expression people get on their faces when they hear this.
So, can parents fight the pressure of advertising? Can parents raise their children to be, somehow, immune to this "disease"? Not a chance.
What parents SHOULD be doing, and what I'm seeing a desperate lack of these days, is LIMIT their kids exposure to this manipulation, and COMMUNICATE with their kids to help them understand these forces and their effect. Of course, most people/parents don't understand this themselves.
You can't "protect" your kids from society, to try is to further weaken them to its effects, but you can help them understand that consumerism isn't the key to happiness. The key is in mandating moderation - establishing limits on how much exposure they get, especially at a young age - and establishing open communication with your kids, and that is exactly what I don't see many parents doing.
Try giving your kid a book, rather than plunking them down in front of the computer/tv.
Miriam Heddy — September 13, 2009
I'd add here that, while parents can't "protect" kids from advertising in the sense of keeping them from seeing it, we *can* emphasize media literacy, beginning at a young age, by helping our kids understand how advertisements make arguments, how to question what they see and hear, and how to become better critical consumers of media they cannot (and probably will not) avoid.
This doesn't, by the way, take an advanced degree to do, or any specialized knowledge, though there are a number of good websites (like The Media Literacy Clearinghouse and others) that offer curriculum on media literacy for educators, and parents can read them and use them as sources to help them formulate good questions if they, themselves, aren't familiar with media literacy.
There are also some good videos out there that parents can use, such as:
Is that toy going to work as well in real life as it does in the commercial? Kids test out a toy and see:
How they make food look so good on TV commercials (dressing a burger):
Why no real, live women look like the women you see in magazines and billboards (Dove's Real Beauty "Evolution" video):
The LAMPNY's video "Talking Back: Bratz commercial"
Any parent can come up with at least a few questions to signal to kids that advertisements are things to be questioned, and to model that questioning. "Do you really think the toy does everything this commercial says it does?" and "Is that realistic?" and "Do those *really* taste better if they have faces on them? Can your tongue tell the difference? Can your tummy?" and, in the store, "Why does this package of noodles cost more than the other one?" Even telling them that commercials are designed to make you feel bad about yourself so that the company can then promise to make you feel good again is important, and you can move to actually asking kids how a given commercial made them feel--when they felt bad and when they felt good. And it's worth reminding them that, when they *do* buy something, the good feeling usually doesn't last very long--and it's not *supposed* to, since the company wants you to go out and buy something else from them!
This all takes time, of course, but not too much. You can ask them whenever you pass by the TV set, or when you're in the store shopping with kids. And once kids start hearing these questions modeled by adults, they do start asking them on their own and coming up with their own answers.
Consuming Kids: The Commercialization of Childhood | Remove Cellulites|control|stop|treatments|causes|medication|medicine|drugs|pills|information|problems|advice|remove|creams — September 14, 2009
[...] think everyone who has children (and even those who don’t) should watch this series of videos recently posted on the Socialogical Images [...]
Hannah — September 14, 2009
I only watched the first two segments, so I don't know if it's addressed later on, but I'm more worried that children are so exposed to media in general. If kids weren't constantly watching TV and surfing the web, this would not be a problem. Maybe I'm biased because I went to a school that strongly encouraged parents not to own a TV or computer, but the advertising is less disturbing to me than the odd fantasy worlds that children become immersed in. It's not mentally healthy to get all of your information about the world through a filter and be uncomfortable with silence. While advertisers are to blame for pushing products on young kids, parents are responsible for their children's lifestyles and should know better than to hook them up to a monitor 24/7.
Melissa — September 14, 2009
Many of you are saying how the bulk of the responsibility falls on the parent. While to some extent, I agree with you, I disagree in a lot of other ways…
These are the same parents that will choose to pop their child(ren) down in front of a tele instead of interacting with them. Why do you think that is?
Chances are that both (or just one if a single household) of the parents work 8 hours a day. They are tired at the end of that. They don't have the time or brainpower to sit and interact in a beneficial manner with their kids. Not to mention they have dinner to prepare, laundry to do, sports games to go to. There is just not enough bloody time and energy.
Advertisers know this. (Manufacturing Consent comes to mind here.)
It is also quite probable that parents do not understand advertising and how it affects them personally let alone how it affects their children. How are they then to be made accountable for the decision they make when their children are behaving badly in a supermarket because they want the Transformers Cocoa Puffs? They aren't saying to themselves "Gee, if I get this, how will it affect little Johnny? Should I begin to have discussions with him concerning the media and advertising?". No, I would bet that most parents would say "Shit. Johnny is being a brat. I don't have time for this. I still have to make dinner and mow the lawn. I'll just give it to him so he will shut up and we can get home".
I don't have children but I think parenting would be an exhausting job. I truly believe that most parents are doing the best they can and if there is any harm being done to children, it is not the parents' intention.
Lore — September 15, 2009
This was an interesting view, but I did feel like it lacked a level of intricacy. Instead of showing the nuances and the complicated nature that consumerism becomes a part of our lives, it seemed to pretty much negative. While I do agree with the premise that we should have more commercial regulation towards children and that it seems unfair to target children who are undeveloped enough to make rational decisions regarding advertisements, the film could be a little more neuanced. For example, the now vs then segments when the past was painted as the "pure" time and the current time as the "bad" time, seems to be to be painting with a broad brush. Media and advertising has changed a lot over the last 50 years, but it was never innocent. Even without advertisements and media people watched violence (cockfights, dogfights, public hangings) and enforced gender and social roles. In fact, despite the onslaught of advertisements (and other media) telling us *who* we should be conceptions of femininity and feminism have changed. Additionally, while we may be overly bombarded with advertisements (and commercials) at some point they become over saturated and people learn to ignore them. Naturally, with all the social programming that goes into advertisements they are made to be hard to resist (my dad loves Mac commercials but has never owed a mac), but still with things like video recording we are now able to skip over commercials. Therefore, while I do think that the film brings up interesting points (and grossly misrepresents ethnography), it fails to address the true complexity of the issue(s).
Unfortunately, this is a problem that our future faces. « Glimpsing The Future — September 17, 2009
[...] Consuming Kids: The Commercialization of Childhood via Sociological Images glimpsingthefuture @ 2:20 pm [filed under Uncategorized tagged children, commercialization Leave a Comment » [...]
The Chutry Experiment » Sunday Links — September 20, 2009
[...] Via The Film Doctor, several notable links including an intriguing online documentary project, Consuming Kids: The Commercialization of Childhood, which looks at the increasing practice of marketing toward children. The seven-part video series is anthologized here. [...]
bitchphd — September 23, 2009
1. "What's the harm?"
The video series explicitly addresses this. The harm is that overconsumption of market-driven media leads to higher rates of health problems: depression, diabetes. The harm is that fostering a sense that happiness lies in buying stuff, and that we are first and foremost consumers undervalues and undermines human relationships and actually changes the way we think. The videos interview people who have done this research and found these results. (I'm tempted to say that one effect of that kind of change is getting young people who say things like "corporations have the right to make profits" and seem to think that that's more important than the right of human beings to see themselves and be seen as something other than profit vehicles, but that would be anecdote rather than research.)
2. "What about the parents' responsibility?"
One of the most important responsibilities parents have is to guard their children's health. If we were talking about companies poisoning the water supply, I hope that no one here would say "well, it's the parents' responsibility to get clean water from somewhere." The point that the videos are making is that the culture we live in is saturated with marketing. Kids are part of that culture. You cannot avoid it. If parents were to refuse to send their children to school, to let their children make friends, to allow their kids to go to birthday parties, to give their children presents that grandparents or aunts or uncles buy for them, we would rightly condemn those parents as overprotective at best and actually abusive at worst. If we live in a world where the only way to protect kids from marketing designed to manipulate them and undermine their learning and health is to . . . undermine their learning and health, then that is not something that parents can take sole responsibility for. It would literally be impossible.
stroll — September 23, 2009
This is a fascinating topic, and I don't have much to add to the discussion but an anecdote. I know a little girl, about four years old, who once begged her mom to buy something like brussel sprouts (not sure exactly what but not important) because it had Spongebob on it. Anyway, her mother recalls she was eating them and declaring how yummy they were, all the while with a pained look on her face because she really DIDN'T like them, and was making herself sick forcing herself WANT to want them.
Myths from the 49th Parallel — September 24, 2009
[...] want to do two things: direct you to a really interesting doc, and test out my linking ability. This is about how advertising targets children, and how insidious the messages can be in media like [...]
Jack Holcomb — September 26, 2009
Many of these comments are built on the assumption that parents must be reactive. They supposedly have a duty not to interfere with the legal economic activity of advertisers beyond their own households--as if parents and other people didn't have a stake in the shape of American culture outside their front door.
Imagine someone building a chemical plant in your neighborhood. I think we would all agree that that chemical plant should meet certain standards of control to safeguard all of the local families; I think some of us would even stand up and say "the inherent risks of this plant are unacceptable. Not In My Backyard."
Now imagine someone standing up and saying that yes, the chemical plant might poison the water, but really as a responsible parent your job isn't to limit the chemical plant's behavior--it's to make sure that your family meets the safety standards that you think are appropriate; don't push your safety standards on us. If you don't like the water, don't drink it.
I think most of us would agree that this is absurd. It absolves the chemical plant of any responsibility for harm it may do. Most of us would agree that it's actually the chemical company's ethical responsibility to be a good neighbor. Of course, that's not where corporate law is in America, where the fiduciary responsibility to stockholders is the guiding principle.
Advertisers aren't chemical companies and the airwaves aren't the water supply, but the principle applies: corporations that use publicly owned resources (like the airwaves) should be accountable to the owners of those resources (us). We sometimes seem to think that the conscientious acts of corporate employees might make the corporation act conscientiously, but often that's not the case because corporate goals have a way of masking individual moral choices--"no, it's probably not good that the company is doing this, but really my job is to do the best job I can do." Corporations generally can't be relied upon to act conscientiously--it's usually not compatible with maximizing profits.
Government regulation is a way for amoral corporate giants to become socialized and "get religion." Enron was not raised in a functional household.
Diigo bookmarks 09/27/2009 « Jill’s Place — September 27, 2009
[...] Consuming Kids: The Commercialization of Childhood [...]
LK — September 29, 2009
I don't understand how this comes as a surprise to anyone. Like the Kellogg's lawyer says, we live in a "democratic capitalistic" system. Entities have the goal to make profits, kids provide profits, so they pursue that avenue. Why is anyone surprised?
"Consumer advocates" is a really dumb sounding title as well. They are arguing that there should be limits imposed on marketers. As the video shows, Congress made it clear who they serve in the 1970s by weakening the FTC and thats still how the system works today. The government is designed to protect commerce/trade/capitalism. When they impose limits (the FDA, the EPA) it is only so that the system is not overthrown/abandoned by frustrated people who have reached their limit. Capitalism cannot exist without government (despite what objectivists and anarchocapitalists claim).
Targeting 'marketers who advertise to children' and limiting your outrage to that will do nothing. Its like trying to cut down a tree with a salmon. They might notice you but they will only laugh. Instead, you must target consumerism as a whole (capitalism) and mass media (propaganda). Anything less is futile against their resources.
Sande Petkau — November 11, 2009
As a parent (who was formally schooled in the wiles of marketing) I find no surprise in this film. From before my children were born (they are 6 and 8) I made "rules": no pink for my daughter, dolls are encouraged for my son, neither will wear anything with branded marketing images (other than pj's which are hand-me-downs). I don't allow them to watch TV (DVD movies are allowed on occasion) and they are not allowed to play on the computer. I rarely bring them to the mall with me and I never brought them into a Toys R Us until I felt they could handle the talk of how they are being "marketed to".
Now, this is quite likely more than the average parent would commit to. And STILL I am undermined at every possible moment by marketing (at daycare, at school, at friends' houses, in any environment outside our home, really). I strongly believe that the government NEEDS to intervene. This is beyond one family's realm, this is our entire society's problem. So many of you who don't see a problem think this way because you have been immersed in it since you were a child (I am 42). There is enormous pressure on parents to not leave their children in the pop-culture dust...I can only hope my children will be able to discern for themselves one day that they are being manipulated by people who want to exploit them in the pursuit of the almighty dollar.
Kids and Advertising | U Reader | Your daily news stop station ... — November 17, 2009
[...] crony upheld along this couple to an online documentary about promotion and kids that’s constructed by the Media Education Foundation. My father and I found it fascinating, [...]
Alternative Toy Safety Warning Labels » Sociological Images — December 11, 2009
[...] check out our post on the commercialization of childhood. Leave a Comment Tags: children/youth, consumption, marketing, toys/games Phone Sex: [...]
Jeff — December 11, 2009
What the hell is with all the corporate apologists that pop up in discussions like these, white knighting multi-national conglomerates with billions of dollars spent in marketing research, and lambasting parents who have the temerity to not put a black bag over their kids' heads, as one poster said?
Only in America could you get people, I mean every day, middle class, $40,000/year salary people to scream "WHAT ABOUT THE CORPORATIONS?" when issues like this arise.
INHABITAT NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS FOR 2010! | Inhabitat — January 1, 2010
[...] Editor of Inhabitots, Portland, ORAfter recently watching the compelling online documentary, “Consuming Kids: The Commercialization of Childhood, which is vital ‘must-see’ viewing for every parent, it is with absolute clarity that I [...]
INHABITAT NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS FOR 2010! « — January 1, 2010
[...] recently watching the compelling online documentary, “Consuming Kids: The Commercialization of Childhood, which is vital ‘must-see’ viewing for every parent, it is with absolute clarity that I [...]
News: INHABITAT NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS FOR 2010! | B1 with Earth — January 2, 2010
[...] recently watching the compelling online documentary, “Consuming Kids: The Commercialization of Childhood, which is vital ‘must-see’ viewing for every parent, it is with absolute clarity that I [...]
Hi Meggen! — March 10, 2010
It is the parents' responsibility to protect their children. But it is not just advertising that they need to protect them from, it is our Entire Society.
As Foucault writes, (paraphrasing here) when individuals aren't held in their place from above (i.e. an aristocracy), then all sorts of little rules and regulations for social behavior will be imposed on them by society as a whole.
How this relates is that, Big Business has successfully convinced us (speaking for U.S.) that "we are what we buy." Children do not have the autonomy to realize that what you have or do not have does not (mostly) define you as person.
Have so many of you other commentors forgotten what it was like to be a child? There were so many stupid things that so many people had, that if I didn't have them, or others, they would be socially ostracized for being "uncool."
And it's just not true that parents only have to deal with keeping their children away from advertising, because it's the other children that can really damage a person, for not fitting in and whatnot.
And obviously there's just too many people in our society with so much going on that it is totally unreasonable to expect that individual parents can just shield their children from the rest of society.
It is society as a whole that has to change society. Which I doubt will happen, but whatever, I'm speaking somewhat hypothetically here.
And to the people who have written "well, gee, I just don't see how highly invasive advertising and constant over-stimulation is having a negative impact on our society..." Well, I just really have no words to describe how effing stupid I think you are (and the masses in general). But that's my problem and does not undermine what is written above. Good day!