Apr 05 2010
Juliet B. Schor’s book ‘Born to Buy starts off her first chapter with a quote from a Nickelodeon ad: “A nation of kids and they Drive purchases.”
The United States is the most consumer oriented society in the world and thus we have very commercial oriented kids and they have become powerful consumers. At 18 months a kid starts recognizing logos and we can fight advertising all we want but it had taken hold of every aspect of society, and there really is no way to escape it. Once something is popular, its depicted on folders, posters, clothes, toothbrushes, even birthday cards and cereal. Kids are being convinced to convey messages to their parents. I think kids are innocent: the kids do not know that they are being manipulated by advertising nor do they know the consequences of their begging and pleading for a product they saw on TV. Young children do not understand what manipulation is. They know that if they throw a temper tantrum in the store, they get the toy they want. But do they know they are being enabled by the parent? That this is selfish behavior? Of course not. Schor tells us that innocent children are the link from the consumer marketplace to the household, between the advertiser and the family purse. It is parents that are following a ‘prize at the end’ mentality that helps promote this kind of manipulation from kids. “If you are good, you will get this.” It’s a system that works perfectly in this commercial world. But not all the blame can set on the parents. Society pressures parents into living up to certain standards. Advertising creates a message that children are being deprived if they don’t have certain products, or that the children are unsafe or in danger is certain products are there for them. Parents also worry that their child will be socially rejected if their child isn’t following the latest fads. And the parents have every right to worry. Children are bullied at school for such things as not dressing like the more popular kids or are singled out because they don’t have the latest cool toy.
I brought up how advertisers take advantage of the ‘attention span of a rodent’ that children possess. Children see a flashing, sparkling, coloring ad on TV and they instantly want the product. They demand immediate satisfaction because the commercial has just displayed the single greatest toy ever made. The parent buys the toy. Child plays with toy for a week. Another commercial comes on for another toy. The first toy is completely forgotten as the child begs for the new one. It’s the cruelty of reality, and parents need to recognize this kind of behavior from kids.
Schor also addresses a very frightening problem. Children today are being pushed to be anti-authority. Parents are the enemy and are their to make life miserable. It’s ‘kid power’, and advertisers are telling kids ‘hey, you know what you want. You know what’s best for you. Go for it! Your parents just don’t understand you. But we do.’
There is also the troubling concept of ‘age compression’. This is a powerful tool used by advertisers. A Barbie video was played that depicted this tool very well. Barbies marketed for 3 year olds have 13 year olds in them. No 13 year old actually plays with Barbies, because the stuff they like has commercials with 20 year olds in them. Everything is pushed 10 years up. Also in these commercials, as depicted by a Tonka toys commercial, girls play with dolls, boys play with Tonka trucks. The commercials separate the sexes in pink and blue, clean and dirty, cute and tough, dress-up and Nerf guns. We are telling our kids from an early age what it means to be a girl and what it means to be a boy, leaving no freedom for the child to develop his/her own likes and dislikes. It was also brought up that there is a double standard if ever the child DOES have the freedom to choose. Girls can be like boys, boys CANNOT be like girls. Being male is fine because it is considered to be the superior gender.
It was brought up that more parents should take responsibility. To just say no. But, parents should know of all people how hard it is to say no. The same message is used for drugs and alcohol, and parents can remember how difficult to deal with peer pressure is. Except this time the peers are society as a whole and the expectations that are set up by advertisers.
The extreme of all of this was shown in the “Real Housewives of…” videos, namely Orange County and New York. In New York, the mother wants to know what her 14 year old daughter’s male friends say about her. It’s disturbing to hear, but, its what her age is marketed for. It makes her feel younger. She places the value of herself as a person into the opinion of tween boys. (We’ve really played up the mid-life crisis to ‘There is no mid-life! Feel 10 years younger with these clothes, this hair, this car, and this makeup’) Kids are seeing adults act just as juvenile as they are, and thus the idea of a role model is completely lost. In the Orange County clip, the mother relies on her teenage son for financial help. He has to help her keep track of her money. It’s pathetic! These kids are being pushed to be too independent too early, and the only thing they stay dependent on is the wallet of their parents. Now, not everyone is a Real Housewife, but parents are quickly losing control and becoming like them.
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