I’m happy to be back after a long hiatus from World Moms Blog. I was taking a break from blogging but not from reading and loving all of the posts from our worldwide web of writers. I am happy to be back contributing to the blog and sharing some thoughts from my little corner of the universe!
As I’m writing my first post back, I’ve just finished wrapping the last of the Christmas gifts, and I’ve checked and re-checked my son’s letter to Santa to make sure we didn’t forget anything that can reasonably be gotten (a real-car sized Lightning McQueen is not something we’re investing in this year, Chase, sorry!).
For the past year or so I have been increasingly concerned about how “into” branded toys and things my nearly 4-year old son has become. Like lots of kids his age, he always wants a new toy train or car and loves to beg me to take him to the toy store to “just look.” The toys that he wants the most, though, are the ones that he associates with TV shows or movies that he knows.
When my husband and I first started letting Chase watch television at around eighteen months we made the decision that he could only watch television shows without commercials and agreed to limit the screen time for a variety of reasons. We both felt that television has its place, but we did not want to expose him to the Madison Avenue marketing machine at such a young age.
As first time parents we did not fully appreciate that, commercials notwithstanding, most television shows themselves are giant commercials for tons of merchandise. While we thought we were doing a great job shielding our son from advertising and marketing, we were really exposing him directly to it. And, the branded merchandise is everywhere, not just the toy stores.
Over the years it has crept into supermarkets (what, exactly, does Dora the Explorer have to do with yogurt!?!), clothing stores, shoe stores (Batman rainboots, anyone?), school supplies and the list goes on. In fact, in the US, there are licensed characters on the waistband of infant diapers—how’s that for brand introduction? Becoming more aware of the connection between commercial-free television shows and marketing to children, has made me want to start a dialogue with my son about the practice.
He’s only 3 so it’s a very rudimentary conversation. I try to convey small points (the yogurt with the character on it is not necessarily the healthiest choice; or, the toy from that show you watched at Grandma’s house is only a dump truck that does the same thing as the one you already have at home) and hope that I’m laying the foundation for more in-depth conversations down the line.
Ultimately, I don’t know that kids having toys from a favorite show or movie is necessarily “wrong”, but the marked increase in branded items targeted toward kids bothers me somehow. It may be because I feel that the branded toys have the potential to stifle creativity, I’m not really sure. It is something that is on my radar screen, and I think it’s something worth considering when making buying choices. I know we will be doing that in our family!
How do you feel about advertising to children?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Allison Charleston of New York, USA.
Photo credit to Woodley Wonder Works. This photo has a creative commons attribution license.