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Biggs 1 Summer Biggs Media Communication Professor Innes Mitchell 28 March 2012 Consuming Kids Studies show that

on average, we as Americans see 3,000 advertisements per day (Johnson). Our consumer culture has become an integral part of our everyday lives. What we dont realize though, is the environment we are creating for our children. The film, Consuming Kids, written by Adriana Barbaro and directed by Jeremy Earp, highlights children as this powerful demographic, with billions of dollars in buying power, but the lack of understanding of marketers aggressive strategies. The filmmakers show the dangers of childrens advertising and how it affects kids attitudes, perceptions of the world, gender stereotypes, and priorities. I would consider myself as part of the young generation being discussed, which makes me have some conflicting thoughts after watching the film. Part of me feels that as a kid raised in the earlier stages of childrens consumer culture, I havent experienced problems with this lifestyle. I never felt that advertisements and commercials were a threat or too aggressive, they were just simply part of everyday life, a constant background to our society. But this is the exact point that Consuming Kids is trying to prove. Throughout my childhood I was too young to understand the persuasive intent of advertisements. However, now that I am old enough I have just become numb to it. The film brought up TV programs, toys, snacks, and clothing from my childhood and it was amazing to see how the things I loved growing up, were all part of a larger issue that I am learning about today. This is where the other part of me feels uneasy. As technology advances, marketers become more deliberate, and a new meaning of childhood

Biggs 2 arises, there will be consequences. The film discusses examples like depression, anxiety, ADHD, diabetes and obesity. This is a problem that has gotten out of hand, and someone needs to take responsibility for our future. But whose responsibility is it? Consuming Kids is a great film that raises the issues of childrens marketing and talks about its impact on the future. A passage that struck me was the comparison of marketers to pedophiles. The invasive methods used to gather information seem creepy and unnecessary. Watching children as they play with toys, interact with other kids, and even monitor their daily routines is taking it too far. The extent to which these marketers study children is similar to how scientists study a different species. These are children, not some kind of unknown animal. This just shows how important of a demographic kids are, and how any kind of information is valuable when trying to gain advantage over competitors. The passage that created the most lasting impression on me was the concept of kids not being allowed to be kids anymore. In every category, whether it be music, TV, magazines, or toys, children are learning to grow up faster. The purpose of this film is to raise awareness of the extensive commercialization of childhood, and hopefully provoke people to take action to protect the youth. I think the filmmakers successfully communicated their message. In terms of informing the public and creating an argument, the film uses ethos, logos and pathos very distinctly. For ethos, the film gains credibility through the use of childrens group representatives, marketing scholars and health care professionals. Learning the opinions of these people based on their experiences in the field and their research is very interesting and eye opening. For logos, the film uses statistics, studies and news clips to support their claims. And finally for pathos, the use of emotion to help formulate an argument comes mainly from fear. This phenomenon of the commercialization of

Biggs 3 childhood raises questions about the future. The film makes the viewer wonder whose responsibility it is to fix this. It calls upon old footage from the 1950s and 60s of children playing outside or playing with simple toys, making the viewer remember their childhood and realize that this is not the childhood our youth is growing up in. It also arouses a feeling of protectiveness. The message is that these are our children and they need to be guarded from the relentless marketing strategies being used today. Technology plays a huge role in the exposure to commercial messages. According to a Knowledge Networks/SRI study, nearly two-thirds of children have a television in their room, while 17 percent have their own computer and 35 percent have a video game system (LeClaire). Technology is their entertainment, the way they interact with others, and is highly accessible. As the film describes it, this media multitasking makes kids more vulnerable to commercials and advertising. Product placement is common in movies, TV shows and video games where children are being advertised to even when theyre not aware of it. This can be interpreted as dishonest advertising and is one of the many ways marketers are trying to influence children in new ways and multiple channels. An interesting strategy that marketers use is branding childrens characters. Popular cartoons, action heroes, movie stars and other figures that mark the touchstones of childrens lives become promotional methods, used to sell more products and make more money. A study conducted by Yales Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity found that children were more likely to enjoy the taste of foods when they were branded with cartoon characters. The results of this experiment provide evidence that the use of popular characters on food products affects childrens assessment of taste (Scott-Thomas). This is the very idea behind the marketing of cereals, kids meals, and snacks with popular characters. Psychologically, children see the

Biggs 4 packaging of a product with their favorite cartoon character on it and are attracted to it. In their minds, it is something familiar, inviting, and also exciting. Socially, children want to have the product with this character on it because its cool to them. The materialistic qualities of our culture are instilled in them early on, and they want to display their status or personality through the products they choose. This marketing of cool and expensive brand products does influence childrens attitude towards money, status and materialism. In our consumer culture, especially within the nature of public schooling, I think that it is inevitable for kids to develop a perception of these concepts. Middle school is a perfect example, where the effects of target marketing and social status are magnified. Companies like Hollister and Abercrombie & Fitch are very effective in targeting kids ages 11-14. Their clothes arent anything special by any means. It could even be argued that kids who buy their products are being used as walking advertisements, wearing shirts that say nothing but the company name. But the recognition and feeling of belonging that a kid gets from wearing a shirt from the store, is where the value lies. The clothing is expensive and name brand, therefore it makes the person cool to wear it. The film, Consuming Kids, discusses how marketers are selling their products further down the age scale, and the gender messages it is sending. Boys learn from video games what it means to be a man. And girls learn from dolls what it means to be a woman. This socialization in early stages of life is normal. But when video games contain the violence that they have come to use and girls toys look like Bratz dolls, there may be a problem with what society is teaching children. In a study of kids video games conducted by the University of Central Florida, There were no female characters in 41% of the games with characters. In 28% of these, women were portrayed as sex objects. Nearly 80% of the games included aggression or violence as part of the

Biggs 5 strategy or object. While 27% of the games contained socially accepted aggression, nearly half included violence directed specifically at other and 21% depicted violence directed at women (Dietz). This shows at a young age, the way males are taught to view women, be aggressive, and use violence. For girls, the film uses the examples of Bratz dolls and Libby Lu. These Bratz dolls wear lots of makeup, short skirts, crop tops, and high heels. When you look at them, they actually look similar to your idea of a prostitute. Not only is Bratz a doll, but it is a movie and a computer game as well. The only girls with a passion for fashion, as the slogan says, teach girls they have to be pretty, sexy and glamorous. Libby Lu, an interactive retailer, was created as a place for girls to go to get makeovers and celebrate being a girl. But what it is really teaching them to do is spend money on clothes, make up, jewelry, lotion, and nails. These are all examples of how our consumer culture affects children. It shapes their identities by specifically defining their role in society, shows them how to use their gender to be successful, and introduces the values we embrace today. Returning back to the question of whose responsibility is it to protect children from consumer culture, it is important to assess the governments role. I think the government has not taken an active role in this issue because it stimulates the economy. Children are a large, very profitable demographic, and taking that away would change things in a big way. Right now children are being made into lifelong consumers, which is important to our society. That is why there is a difference between this issue, and child labor laws or protecting children from the marketing of tobacco. The detrimental effects of consumer culture arent as dire or even recognized. But parents cant protect their kids on their own. There needs to be some kind of return to government regulation in order to keep marketers and big corporations under control. Although I believe this, I do not agree that we have become a nation that places lower priority on

Biggs 6 how to thrive socially, intellectually and spiritually. I feel that more than ever, education and personal advancement through a career is emphasized. People are becoming more socially accepting of different people. And spirituality is a popular basis on which to create a widespread community. The training of our youth to consume is a result of technology advancements and innovation. Commercialization is part of our modern culture, and in order to keep it from undermining these other values, participation from the government, parents, and corporations will be necessary.

Biggs 7 Works Cited Dietz, Tracy L. "An Examination Of Violence And Gender Role Portrayals In Video Games: Implications For Gender Socialization And Aggressive Behavior." Sex Roles 38.5/6 (1998): 425-442. SocINDEX with Full Text. Web. 29 Mar. 2012. Johnson, Caitlin. "Cutting Through Advertising Clutter." CBS News. N.p., 02/11/2009. Web. 29 Mar 2012. <>. LeClaire, Jennifer. "Kids and Tech: How Much is Too Much?." Tech News World. N.p., 09/06/06. Web. 28 Mar 2012. <>. Scott-Thomas, Caroline. "Cartoon Characters May Influence Kid's Taste Preferences." Food Navigator. N.p., 08/03/2011. Web. 29 Mar 2012. <>.