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Children as Commodities, Influence of Media on Children

10 April 2009 No Comment
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Media Influence on Children - Marketing Power

Media Influence on Children - Marketing Power

“The advertising and marketing industry spends over $17 billion a year on shaping our children’s identities and desires.”

Below is an excellent article discussing the influence of media and money in “commodifying” of children in our modern culture. The article itself is very long so I’ve excerpted pieces of it below with a link at the bottom to the original source. Enjoy!

As we face difficult economic times, everyone is wondering how are we going to bounce back? What can be done? In all the pain and sufferings we are facing, perhaps we should stop and ask ourselves, is there something we can learn from all this? Is there something we could change? The article asks “What kind of society and future do we want for our children given how obviously unsustainable and exploitative the now failed market-driven system has proven to be?”

In a society that measures its success and failure solely through the economic lens of the Gross National Product (GNP), it becomes difficult to define youth outside of market principles determined largely by criteria such as the rate of market growth and the accumulation of capital. The value and worth of young people in this discourse are largely determined through the bottom-line cost-benefit categories of income, expenses, assets and liabilities. The GNP does not measure justice, integrity, courage, compassion, wisdom and learning, among other values vital to the interests and health of a democratic society.

“Subject to an advertising and marketing industry that spends over $17 billion a year on shaping children’s identities and desires, American youth are commercially carpet-bombed through a never-ending proliferation of market strategies that colonize their consciousness and daily lives.”

Children once was perceived as important social investments, innocent children we needed to protect as they would one day be the moral foundations of our society. Our culture protected them. Businesses wouldn’t dare objectify them or treat them like any other commodity. Yet time has changed dramatically in the last couple decades. It has moved from a culture of social protection to a culture of commodification. Now children from a young tender age, grow up in a culture that objectifies their value taking away any sense of moral agency.

Media Influence and Advertising from an Early Age

At age one, she’s watching Teletubbies and eating the food of its “promo partners” Burger King and McDonald’s. Kids can recognize logos by eighteen months, and before reaching their second birthday, they’re asking for products by brand name. By three or three and a half, experts say, children start to believe that brands communicate their personal qualities, for example, that they’re cool, or strong, or smart. Even before starting school, the likelihood of having a television in their bedroom is 25 percent, and their viewing time is just over two hours a day. Upon arrival at the schoolhouse steps, the typical first grader can evoke 200 brands. And he or she has already accumulated an unprecedented number of possessions, beginning with an average of seventy new toys a year

Targeting Children with Rising Purchasing Power

American Children between 12 and 19.
2000: 31 Million Kids controlled 155 billion Consumer Dollars.
2004: 33.5 Million Kids controlling 169 billion in Consumer Dollars.
That is equivalent to $91 per week per kid. Tremendous spend growth in only 4 years.

In 2002: Children 4-12 years old.
4-12 years olds: $30 Billion in Personal Spending
12-19 year olds: $170 Billion in Personal Spending

Children are big spenders, but also assert huge influence on parental purchases of over $670 billion a year.

Where is the Crossing the Line? Do people Notice?

Market strategists are increasingly using sexually charged images to sell commodities, often representing the fantasies of an adult version of sexuality. For instance, Abercrombie & Fitch, a clothing franchise for young people, has earned a reputation for its risque catalogues filled with promotional ads of scantily clad kids and its over-the-top sexual advice columns for teens and preteens; one catalogue featured an ad for thongs for ten-year-olds with the words “eye candy” and “wink wink” written on them.

Full Article: Commodifying Kids

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