Consuming Kids by Susan Linn
There is every case of validity behind this truth that we are catching children’s vulnerability at every time and every phase of their lives by making them exposed to adult world. At very young age, girls are now wearing highly sexualized clothes hardly able to understand the effects of its ramifications. Children are getting trapped in the viciousness of maturity at very young age. With all this, it is so natural that children will develop the same image and attitude what is shown to them. Children below eight years have started to adopt all manners of adulthood, have become more demanding and losing all the interest of traditional moral values. Parents on the other hand fulfill all their demands, as they cannot give them enough time.
Marketing to children is a grave societal problem and all efforts should be made to bring changes in it. Changes need to be brought in the whole concept of commercial media. Government should encourage programs that would give quality educational to children and encourage commercial endeavors of the companies who share the government in its view to publicize programs and air the same that are beneficial for children and their health. The first help should come from parents who should develop an environment free of commercialization for them. Children should be encouraged to participate in outdoor activities, creativity and other skills.
2. As the regulatory laws of the marketing to the children are very less therefore there is more of commercialization. The duty of the public television is the telecasting of the educational and healthy programs but instead they are telecasting and are attempting to give all loyalty to the brands for their professional motives. Earlier in 1983, companies were spending 100 million dollars annually targeting marketing to children but today they are spending 17 billion dollar on the same, therefore forging alliance with toy manufacturers has become more profitable venture. (Linn with Multinational Monitor, 32) For e.g. CCFC was spreading its program through BusRadio, which is telecasting commercialized radio broadcasts in school buses, easily penetrating in children. (Linn with Multinational Monitor, 33)
Tie inns with the fast food companies suppresses creativity and increases obesity, sexual precocity, substance abuse or any other eating disorders, and over and above violent attitude. As in the fast and hectic life, people rarely have time to cook home made food so they are easily lured by the advertisements of the fast foods negating other social programs like broadcasting Sesame Street, Arthur, and other programs for young children. Naturally commercialized free television programs are very important for children as they could remain aloof from the negative effects of many of the products and can adopt positive and optimistic approach towards life.
3 Children should be made to watch the TV commercials that would be educational and beneficial for them but they are being made to watch the programs that are increasing sex and violence for e.g. in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City was the most popular game among teens in 2002 and in one of the games, they can have sex with a prostitute and then kill her. At the 2006 Summit on Video Games, Youth and Public Policy, academic, medical and health experts signed a statement saying that playing violent video games have a tendency to increase destructive and hostile behavior in children and youth. Besides in 2005, around 70% of the episodes in the top twenty shows viewed by teenagers had contents meant for adult viewing especially sexual content and 8% of contents constituted on sexual intercourse. (Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, 1-2)
4. The ‘worst’ effect [of marketing to children] will depend on your child’s weaknesses or predilections” [p. 9]?
Several studies on the psychological behavior of the children have found the fact that they cannot resist the things they like the most. It is their biggest weakness. It is this weakness, which commercialized companies exploit. They would produce and show the goods, which could easily attract children, as they know they will definitely demand these goods. Negative effects of the violent messages are too many especially boys who get the liking for bullying around, toy guns, lying and cheating. This hampers their positive outlook towards life. Unhealthy foods are equally harmful as they make child obese and create many emotional and psychological problems. Therefore we should not generalize that one is more harmful than the other as both are equally harmful. Several studies found the fact that parents are at least now worried about the violent effects created by the media but still they are not so much worried about the bad effect unhealthy foods are creating in lives of their children because the effect of the unhealthy foods is felt at a slow pace but this is not case with the violence depicted in media.
The use of violence and sex in the media has raised objections for a long time, and many studies have shown that most parents feel that marketing contributes to their children becoming too materialistic. What new information or insights does Consuming Kids contribute to the debate? Are the solutions Linn provides realistic? What reform efforts by the public have been successful in the past? Are there parallels between the methods and goals of those efforts and the call to action in Consuming Kids?
It is quite true that by the entry of commercial media in the lives of children, they no longer want to think for themselves and want to entertain themselves through televisions, video and computer games. They are often heard saying, ‘I am feeling bored’ and when they are told to play outside, it is told they would hesitate and prefer video parlor or simply act as couch potatoes. The toys, which markets are selling now are inhibiting their creativity, they have either medic characters inscribed on them or computer chips of both.
Lucrative advertisements being shown on the prime time television with showing of McDonalds and other fast food outlets with several symbols showing corporate signs and slogans on children’s dresses like their caps, T-shirts etc have become most enduring and likeable. With all these stuffs being bombarded towards the children making parents too finding themselves incapable to keep their children devoid of this. At all cost, parents too cannot keep their children with them always, as they too have to go to their work and join their friends in the evening. If they don’t watch commercials then they would learn all this from their friends and in school. Children also have the nature of adopting each other’s ways like if one child is having a battery operated car or a video gaming with a press of a button zooming around, a child would also crave to have the same.
Linn tells us that companies intentionally devise the campaigns, which exploit the vulnerable children, molding their sensitivities and their skills towards the products and things, which they want to deliver. The commercialization is stripping children from their childhood. Girls are getting more fashion conscious as exemplified by Bratz, Barbie or the Disney. All this is distorting their childhood and more children grew their craving for goods more commercial media exploit this situation by making the use of sexualized clothing and market violence. It is nothing less then exploitation as younger children are looking up at older ones and wanted to be like them. Linn interviewed some students and all were holding the opinion that was not based on their own experience but what they had seen on TV and in magazine advertisements and what affect they had on them. She said that “Advertising appeals to emotions, not to intellect, and it affects children even more profoundly than it does adults”. (Linn, 2) Further Linn said, “Unfortunately, marketing is so ingrained in the fabric of American life that it’s hard to generate much concern about its effects on kids” (Linn, 2). Advertisements are creating so much impact in our lives that when we have attained adulthood still we cannot forget these advertisements
for e.g. Advertisement of Burma Shaw signs whizzing by on the highway or Arthur Godfrey winking at us in black-and-white as he sipped his cup of Lipton Tea etc. We all have certain liking for commercials and some of them are so closer to our heart that we cannot even forget them. (Linn, 2)
The solution that Linn has provided is quite realistic though difficult. She suggests that parents should turn off the TV during the time of meals, for support they can contact the local school board who may intervene and teach children on the ill effects of the commercials. Further parents can give support to the campaign finance reform, go in for regulations and urge members of the clergy to teach people and children on the ill effects of consumerism and help in the implementation of values.
Lin said that “if the advertisement is compared two to three decades ago to the commercialization that permeates our children’s world is like comparing a BB gun to a smart bomb.” (Linn, 3) The spur of marketing, which is targeting children of today has been modified and refined by various scientific methods and well perfected by child psychologists, as the child psychologists are very well aware about the children’s attitude. In short these advertisements are more intruding as compared to the advertisements of previous years. (Linn, 3)
She argued that positive reaction from teachers, legislatures, doctors, clergy, parents and teachers could put an end to the evil effects of the commercialization. All these views are quite reasonable and practically possible as the need of the hour is the realization of the facts and the willingness on the part of the parents to take quick actions.
Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood. “Sexualizing Childhood”. Internet. Available: http://www.commercialexploitation.org/factsheets/sexualizing.pdf, March 11, 2009.
Linn, Susan. “Consuming Kids: The hostile takeover of childhood.” New York: New Press, 2004. Internet. Available: http://www.bookbrowse.com/excerpts/index.cfm?book_number=1417&page_number=2, march 11, 2009.
Multinational Monitor. “Commercializing Childhood: The Corporate Takeover of Kids’ Lives: An interview with Susan Linn.” Multinational Monitor, 2008, pp. 32-38.