I wanted to take you back to the very beginning of Consuming Kids: as I’ve said before, it’s the book that I consider to be the Red Pill Bible, and one of the catalysts for starting this whole RPP enterprise in the first place.
From the underline-worthy opening sentence of the second paragraph of the introduction (italics mine) …
“With a single-minded competitiveness reminiscent of the California gold rush, corporations are racing to stake their claim on the consumer group formerly known as children.”
… to the simple sentence that says it all …
“Every aspect of children’s lives — their physical and mental health, their education, their creativity, and their values — is negatively affected by their involuntary status as consumers in the marketplace.”
… author Susan Linn continues to drain the ink in my bedside pen thusly:
* Marketers spend $15 billion annually marketing to children — 2.5 times more than what they spent in 1992 (this book was published in 2004).
“Even while I, like all American parents, am held responsible for the behavior of my child and for safeguarding her future, corporations bombard her with messages that undermine my efforts.”
* Children influence more than $600 billion a year in spending — a fact “not lost” on corporate America — which spends lavishly in order to create “cradle to grave” brand loyalty (and they do start in the cradle).
* Why children are more vulnerable to marketing, and why marketing directly to children is so insidious:
“Preschool children, for instance, have trouble differentiating between commercials and regular programming on television. Slightly older children can make the distinction, but they are concrete thinkers, tending to believe what they see … Until the age of about eight, children can’t really understand the concept of persuasive intent — that every aspect of an ad is selected to make a product appealing and to convince people to buy it.”
“Yet to focus only on products is to underestimate the magnitude of the problem. Of equal concern are the sheer volume of advertising to which children are exposed, the values embedded in the marketing messages, and the behaviors those messages inspire.”
Values and behaviors indeed. Anybody here trying to raise a little Kardashian? Not me.
* The average child sees about 40,000 commercials on television a year (and that’s just television, which doesn’t include movies, magazines, the Internet, billboards, other kids’ clothing, etc.).
Some jaw-dropping numbers: two thirds of children age 8 to 18 have TVs in their bedrooms, 32 percent of 2- to 7-year-olds do, and 26 percent of children under two do. (In fact, the new mother I shared a hospital room with after the birth of my son, actually turned on the TV for her newborn. In the middle of the night, of course.) Linn points out that children of any age often watch TV by themselves, where “no adult is present to help them process marketing messages.”
“Electronic media continues to proliferate while, as a nation, our willingness to embrace technology constantly outpaces our understanding of its cultural, social and ethical implications.”
When did things change? The Reagan administration deregulated advertising on children’s television in 1984, allowing programs to be created for the purpose of selling children toys. “Within a year of deregulation, all ten of the bestselling toys were linked to media programs.” It worked like a charm! (I wish I could find this list; all I can find is casual references to Star Wars, Optimus Prime and Teddy Ruxpin.)
Then in 1995, congressional Republicans passed a “near-fatal” funding attack on the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which is why PBS programs now have McDonald’s commercials. Other than perhaps the quality of the programming, public television is not much different than commercial TV.
A psychologist colleague of the author says this:
“Ten years ago, when I asked kids how they saw their future, they talked about what kinds of professions they wanted to have … now, I find myself listening to a litany of things they want to own.”
* Ninety percent of parents currently believe that marketing in media contributes to their children becoming too materialistic. (Huh.)
“Marketing … aims to affect core values such as lifestyle choices: how we define happiness and how we measure our self-worth. Meanwhile, the very traits that today’s marketing encourages — materialism, impulsivity, entitlement and unexamined brand loyalty — are antithetical to those qualities necessary in a healthy democratic citizenry. Instead of being a mainstay of American life, intensive advertising to children may be eroding it’s foundation.”
To this I say: “Oh, do we have a healthy democratic citizenry? No, we certainly do not.”
“Children are multifaceted beings whose physical, psychological, social, emotional, and spiritual development are all threatened when their value as consumers trumps their value as people.”
And that’s my last furious underline from the introduction. RPPs, please, read the book, turn off the TV, talk to your kids about what advertising is, throw away all the branded stuff that YOU paid for (when those companies should have paid YOU to advertise for THEM) and watch your materialism, your entitlement, your consumerism. It’s hard, but it’s the best fight you’ll ever fight.
So, dear readers: on to the next chapter, or should I just let you all read the book? Tell me “More!” or “Enough!” — I’ll let you decide. My stack of other clippings, books, topics, and notes is, literally (wait, I’ll go measure it right now) eight inches high.
– Red Pill Mama