Consuming Kids: the Commercialization of Childhood
Adriana Barbaro & Jeremy Earp 2008
The Commercialization of Childhood is about the constant, insidious targeting of American children with corporate marketing.
The US is the only country in the industrialized world that refuses to regulate children’s advertising. In 1984 the Reagan administration stripped the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) of any ability to regulate any children’s advertising or programming. Starting from age three or earlier, American children are bombarded with an average of 3,000 commercial messages a day. Because children under twelve lack the critical faculties to recognize deception, this constant bombardment with pro-consumption messaging has a profoundly negative impact on their psychological development and physical health.
The Nag Factor
Most child marketing is centered around what public relations specialists call the “nag factor” – children’s ability to make their parents miserable if they don’t buy them want they want. In addition to the $40 billion kids themselves spend every year, they also influence their parents’ spending to the tune of $700 billion a year. It’s often children who determine where families spend their holidays and what kind of car, computer and cellphone aps they buy.
Children’s advertising is no longer limited to TV ads and cereal boxes but intentionally pervades every area of their lives. Many contemporary children’s programs are deliberately centered around branded products, such as Sponge Bob Square Pants and Teenage Ninja Turtles. Marketers then play on children’s identification with these toys to get their parents to buy them Sponge Bob and Teenage Ninja Turtles video games, lunch boxes, tee shirts, cookies, crackers and even macaroni and cheese.
Meanwhile financially strapped schools make extra money by displaying brand logos in hallways and auditoriums and on sports fields. Many get free computers and satellite dishes by playing Channel One informercials at the beginning of the school day.
Child Marketers are Like Pedophiles
One of the psychologists interviewed compares child marketers to pedophiles. In addition to maximizing the nag factor, children’s marketing deliberately taps into powerful developmental needs. Public relations specialists spend hundreds of hours filming children’s in supermarkets, at school and even in the bathtub. As well as organizing special focus group slumber parties to expose them to new products, they get them to join fake online social media groups. Here they can earn money and free products by providing personal information about their friends. In most cases, these activities take place without the parents’ knowledge.
This continual bombardment with corporate messaging is leading to a total remodeling of children’s psyche. One particularly alarming example is the sexualization of young girls via “tween” marketing. This is designed to heavily promotes short skirts, skimpy tops and sexy make-up and hair products to 6-12 twelve year olds. After years of this insidious brainwashing, western society is left with a staggering number of young women who think they only have worth if they’re pretty and thin and wear designer clothes. As well as an alarming increasing in anorexia nervosa, which is often fatal.
Meanwhile enticing ads for junk food and soft drinks is responsible for an epidemic of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and strokes – conditions that were once extremely rare in childhood.
Thank you for bringing this to the forefront where it belongs.
i second Sheri’s comment. Thank you for sharing this
What I want to know is how US lawmakers could be so totally spineless that they allow this continue.
Do politicians in USA never ever discuss these matters? What are politicians paid for? Have they so say whatsoever in the regulation of laws. A free, democratic country: I do not get it, why nothing is being done for the change of laws.
I think the filmmakers explain this quite well in the film – the Wall Street lobbyists that control Congress are so powerful that US lawmakers are (supposedly) too frightened to try to regulate them.
Is this how people behave in a democracy? I wonder very much about this. Why can’t people stand up for their beliefs in a democratic system? I think they should be more scared of their democracy going down the drain than of anything else. It is utterly important to see the USA remaining an example of a well functioning democracy. This is what I believe.
Auntyuta, I have been working for 30 years trying to get Americans to stand up for their democratic rights. They seem much more focused on creature comforts, such as cheap gasoline, coffee, sugar, ipods, ipads and smartphones.
Yes, for sure, Stuart, creature comforts, that is what it is all about. Only it seems to me, quite a significant proportion of Americans as well as the world’s population is already excluded. Is that really necessary? A democratically elected government has a responsibility to look for the welfare of all its citizens. If all educated people tell governments it is not the done thing to govern just for the prosperous, don’t they then have to listen to the people? There is freedom of speech, isn’t there? How is it possible that governments do not just ignore the concerns of the uneducated but also those concerns that very well educated people voice?
Sorry, Stuart, I do not want to say that you do not do whatever is possible to do. I just mean it would be desirable that more well educated people like you did more work for social justice. Well, maybe some things just cannot be enforced. At some future date maybe mankind is going to learn to think a bit more about the welfare of neighbours and especially about the welfare of all children. Of course trends like these have to start at home, but in a global society they ought to spread worldwide eventually. I know I am dreaming, but also hoping! 🙂
Nice Doc – and so true – especially about “tween hotness”. Regards
Thanks. I think it’s a great doco.
Thanks good topic. Obesity and diabetes and other diseases are the result. Mindless consumers are brainwashed at an early age.
Unfortunately there are numerous other causes for the obesity epidemic. Poverty is a biggie, especially for people who live in inner cities. In the US government farm subsidies make junk food much cheaper than healthy food. And people at or below the poverty have great difficulty paying for fresh vegetables and chemical-free meat. This problem is compounded by the fact that all the major supermarket chains have abandoned the ghetto – and people often don’t have transportation to a proper supermarket that stocks healthy food.
Ironically another major problem is that the medical profession has been giving the wrong advice about what a health diet consists of. They have been encouraging people to cut out animal fats and increase carbohydrate intake – and this seems to be compounding the epidemic of obesity and type II diabetes.
I did a post about this a few months back: http://stuartjeannebramhall.com/2014/07/08/the-taboo-against-animal-fat/
Reblogged this on One Tawny Stranger.