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.
I worry about this all the time. Capitalism is everywhere and it drives me crazy. We started an allowance every Sunday of one dollar each. The kids have to do basic chores and then they need to save their allowance in order to get anything new. It isn’t perfect but it does seem to help especially during the weekly runs to Target.
Welcome back, Allison!! As far as advertising, my kid asks for more things when she is exposed to commercials. And, comes up with her own ideas for things she is interested in or has ideas of how we can make things when she’s not. I really wish the advertising was more focused on the parent and not the child — it’s everywhere.
I hate commercials in gerneral. I think that they are made for dumm people (no ofense, please). If I really want to buy something commercial is not what I am driven by. I look for that thing online, read reviews, ask people.
Kids are very driven by what they see and what other kids have. I like when my daughter watches cartoons but it drives me crazy when they go to commercials. When I see it I turn the channel but not always I am right on time. So far she is too young to understand it. She just dances to the music, that’s it. I know that pretty soon I will have to explain to her many things like you do to your son. I really hope she’ll get it. If she dosen’t she will be one upset baby because I am not one of those parents who get what the kid wants to every single time. My husband is the same way. As a kid I never got what I really wanted to because my parents didn’t have the money or in early post-communist Poland they simply couldn’t get it. Me and all my sibling were happy with what we got and we all learned to care and enjoy what we were able to get. That’s how I want my kids to grow up. No matter what commercial say. I hope they will grow up to be smart enough to understand it.
I can relate to this. In some ways, our kids are bombarded, but in other ways, there are times that a little commercialism comes in handy (for example, when my son gets a cut and feels better knowing Lightning McQueen is on his band aid to protect him). But I do try to steer clear of advertising when I can. My kids only watch shows I tape on our DVR and I fast forward through commercials (even though they beg to watch them). And sort of like your talks with Chase, my husband actually started to talk with our 6 year old about how commerials work…what their purpose is…to let him know why we didn’t need to see them or had to be mindful of “wanting” whatever we see. But there is no avoiding advertising where I live, so hopefully these little talks are the start of creating our own little educated consumers.