Kids & Commercialism

Josh Golin is the program manager at the of Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, an organization a national coalition of health care professionals, educators, advocacy groups and concerned parents who counter the harmful effects of marketing to children through action, advocacy, education, research, and collaboration.

CCFC supports the rights of children to grow up—and the rights of parents to raise them—without being undermined by rampant consumerism. CCFC is headquartered at the Judge Baker Children’s Center in Boston.

January 2007 Putting the Book Back in Book Fair By Josh Golin Last year, Caroline sent her seven-year-old son to his Scholastic school book fair with five dollars and a note to his teacher that she wanted him to pick a good reading book. Instead, he came home instead with a Batman drawing book and three thirteen-inch flexible pencils. Caroline was understandably upset. She didn’t blame her son for his choices—it’s not surprising a young boy would be drawn to a Batman book or gimmicky pencils. Nor did she feel that she could really expect the teacher to monitor all of the children’s purchases. Instead, she started wondering why these products are offered at all by a fair whose ostensible purpose is to promote reading. Caroline is not alone. An increasing number of parents and educators are concerned about the products sold at fairs organized by Scholastic, Inc., the nation’s leading book fair company. They note the presence of non-book items such as posters, key chains, toys, fashion accessories, and electronic media. It’s a little hard to figure out how bracelets, videogames, or whoopee cushions (I’m not making that up) promote literacy. Parents are also upset by the number of books that are linked to television programs, movies, and toys, including titles as the Cartoon Network’s Scooby Doo and the Frankenstein Monster, Disney Princess Promises, and Lil’ Bratz: Beauty Sleepover Bash! Books that are media tie-ins don’t introduce children to new worlds or new ideas. Instead, they simply reintroduce children to the stories and characters that many of them are all too familiar with from screens, toys and cereal boxes. By selling these books, schools promote media programs and whole lines of associated products—even as we know that heavy television viewing is linked to childhood obesity and lower academic performance.1 According to a Scholastic representative, 35-40% of the books sold at a typical book fair are linked to a movie, television show or video game.2 Operating under what Juliet Schor calls a “wholesome halo”—its reputation as a quality educational publisher—allows Scholastic to escape much of the criticism aimed at other major in-school marketers like Channel One.3But Scholastic book fairs are big business. Last year, they generated $404 million in revenue for the company while providing the cover for major companies such as Disney and Nickelodeon to peddle their wares to children in schools.4 In other words, book fairs have become yet another way for corporations to prey on children. That’s why an increasing number of parents and educators have turned away from Scholastic and are working with independent booksellers to hold “Commercial-Free Book Fairs.” At a Commercial-Free Book Fair, you won’t find video games, makeup, SpongeBob or the Disney Princesses. But you will find lots of new and classic children’s books whose wonderful stories and characters are satisfying in and of themselves, not a means to sell other products to children. Providing an alternative for children who are already inundated with marketing for media-linked products is just one of the benefits of a Commercial-Free Book Fair. Commercial-Free Book Fairs also help schools and communities: * Raise funds in a manner consistent with its educational mission by promoting literacy instead of the latest media programs for children. * Enrich classroom and library book collections. * Provide books to students—including the opportunity to purchase books for those who may not have the funds to buy them. * Support local businesses. * Start a much-needed discussion about the presence of corporate marketers in schools. Best of all, a Commercial-Free Book Fair allows parents and educators to change the commercial culture of schools by doing something positive. Scholastic officials claim that media tie-ins and non-book items are necessary to get “reluctant readers” interested in books,5 but reports from schools that have held Commercial-Free Book Fairs belie that myth. Here’s what Jeff Melnick, a parent at from Cambridge, Massachusetts, had to say about his school’s first Commercial-Free Book Fair: “What a thrill it was to see 4-year-old kindergartners and 13-year-old middle schoolers hit our school lobby this week and show real excitement that it was time for the book fair. With books provided by the locally-owned Porter Square Books, we demonstrated that, given the chance, K-8 kids will embrace the opportunity to look at—and even buy!—all manner of books, from bilingual versions of Puss in Boots to classics and recent titles from major Young Adult authors like Walter Dean Myers. With virtually no media tie-ins to the books, and no free key chains promoting television characters, our school’s Fall Book Fair fulfilled our wish that such school activities can support curriculum and equity while also limiting cross-promotional opportunities for major corporations.” At CCFC, we’ve created a guide to help you hold your own Commercial-Free Book Fair. The guide includes simple tips to help you change the culture of book fairs in your school, as well as a glossary of independent booksellers who support book fairs. We hope that you’ll download it and share it with others in your community. Because isn’t it about time to put the book back in book fair as we work towards making our schools commercial-free? Download CCFC’s Guide to Commercial-Free Book Fairs. Notes: 1. 2 P.L. Donahue, R.J. Finnegan, A.D. Lutkus, N.L. Allen, and J.R. Campbell. (2001). The Nation’s Report Card: Fourth-Grade Reading 2000. Washington DC: U.S. Department of Education. Office of Educational Research and Improvement, National Center for Education Statistics, NCES 2001-499, pg. 14. 2. Grace Bu, Scholastic Sales Representative in Los Angeles, phone conversation with CCFC volunteer Rebecca Weiker, August 2, 2006. 3. J. Schor (2004). Born to Buy: The Commercialized Child and New Consumer Culture. New York, Scriber, p. 97. 4.…, p.16. Accessed November 30, 2006. 5. B. Meltz (November 20, 2006). Taking consumerism out of school book fairs. The Boston Globe. Available at… July 2006 Breaking Free From Baby TV By Josh Golin When Karen Adelmann’s daughter Lily was born, Lily’s grandfather bought the entire catalog of Baby Einstein DVDs. The DVDs cost a considerable sum of money, but he believed they would be important, if not essential, to Lily’s development. Karen was happy to receive the videos. She had heard that the Baby Einstein series was designed to enhance learning and the idea of giving her baby a head start was understandably appealing. When Lily was six months old, Karen sat down with her to watch one of the DVDs and was immediately discomfited by what she saw. Lily sat and stared as if she was in a trance. Thinking that perhaps Lily was just too young for the videos, she waited a few months and tried again. Once again, Karen reports, her daughter “turned into a zombie. She wasn’t clapping or cooing or interacting.” Disturbed, Karen did some online research. It was only then that she found out that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time for children under two. Karen and her father were not alone in the belief that the Baby Einstein videos would benefit her babies’ development. A 2003 study by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 49 percent of parents think educational videos are “very important” in the intellectual development of children. By contrast, only 6% of parents are aware of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendation. Media companies cultivate and exploit the erroneous belief that screen media is good for babies. The packaging for Baby Einstein’s Baby Wordsworth proclaims that the video is a “rich and interactive learning experience that introduces your little one to the concepts of verbal and written communication and sign language” and “fosters the development of your toddler’s speech and language skills.” Brainy Baby claims its Peak-a-boo DVD is “brain stimulating” and “helps nurture such important skills as object permanence, communication skills, cause and effect, language development and many others.” BabyFirstTV, the first television station for babies, alleges that its programs will “inspire creativity,” develop language skills, and “engage children in identifying patterns of thinking and developing creative ways of viewing the world.” For overworked parents, the electronic babysitter can seem like the perfect solution—a chance to help their baby’s development and catch their breath at the same time. But while the producers of baby videos may be telling parents what they want to hear, they aren’t telling them the truth. There is no evidence that screen media is educational for children under two or that any of these videos benefit babies in any way. And the false and deceptive marketing of these videos may actually be putting infants and toddlers at risk. While there haven’t been many studies about babies and screen media, the research that does exist is cause for concern. Research suggests that—for babies—TV viewing interferes with cognitive development and regular sleep patterns. Hours of screen time are also negatively correlated with the time children under two spend interacting with parents and in creative play, which are the foundations of learning. TV viewing can also have long range implications. It is primarily through screen media that companies target young children with marketing for junk food, junk toys, and the underlying message that they need brands in order to be happy. Watching screen media can also be habit forming and—for older children—hours of screen time are linked to childhood obesity, poor school performance and bullying. Media companies should not be allowed to lure babies to screens under false pretenses. That’s why the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) against Baby Einstein and Brainy Baby for false and deceptive advertising. Given what’s at stake—the wellbeing of our youngest and most vulnerable children—the producers of baby videos must be held accountable for any claims they make about the developmental and educational benefits of their products. If you share CCFC’s concerns about the deceptive marketing of baby videos, we hope you’ll share them with others. You can start by telling the FTC that parents deserve honest information when it comes to media and their children.You can also encourage friends and relatives not to purchase baby videos as shower gifts or birthday presents. And you can help educate new and expecting parents by letting them know that videos are not necessary or even beneficial for a baby’s development; that screen media may be harmful to young children; and that the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommends no screen time for children under two. After Lily’s disturbing encounters with Baby Einstein, Karen Adelmann decided she wasn’t ready to surrender her daughter to the billion dollar baby media industry. She put the videos away and never showed them—or any screen media—to her again. Lily is twenty-months-old now, an engaging creative toddler who is learning and growing every day. Television will have to wait; Lily is too busy playing and exploring the world around her. March 2006 Marketers and Kid Power By Josh Golin On May 7-11, marketers from all over the world will gather at the Disney Yacht Club in Orlando at the 13th annual Kid Power Conference and Awards. Kid Power, of course, means purchasing power—it is estimated that children under twelve spend more than $30 billion on purchases and influence more than $500 billion in purchases per year. Given these staggering figures, it’s not surprising that Disney, Nickelodeon, Scholastic, and other major marketers to children are gathering for a week of networking and presentations on the latest market research. For those of us, however, who are not in the business of selling to children, there is something profoundly disturbing about Kid Power and other conferences devoted to helping people market to children. When CCFC’s co-founder Dr. Susan Linn attended the Advertising and Promoting to Kids conference in 2002, she was struck by the fact that it was the only conference about children she’d ever been to where no one was talking about what was best for them. Among themselves, marketers don’t have to pay lip service to concerns that child-directed marketing undermines parents, efforts to raise healthy children and contributes to childhood obesity, youth violence, precocious and irresponsible sexuality, and children’s diminished capacity to play creatively. Instead, they can focus all their energy on how to exploit children for profit. Take Firefly Mobile, for instance. Firefly has marketed its phone for preteens as an essential safety device and a way for parents to keep tabs on their children. But it’s not the safety features that Firefly will be talking about at Kid Power. Fred Bullock, Firefly’s Chief Marketing Officer will discuss the “unique characteristics of wireless communications for kids” and the implications for “marketers and content developers.” Cell phones, it seems, are a pretty good way for marketers to stay in constant contact with your kids too. Bullock will also be part of panel that asks, “Are Kids Getting Older Younger?” In another context, such a panel might entail a serious look at how the various academic and social pressures facing children today are affecting children’s well-being. For marketers, however, the oft-repeated mantra “Kids are getting older younger” is a simply an excuse to market sex and violence to younger children. At “Untapping Kid-fluence”, marketers will learn how “kids wield increasing power in families’ choice of traditional consumer packaged goods to more non-traditional choices like the family car or vacation destination.” But you can bet that no one will be asking if this increased power is a good thing, whether kids should be involved in car purchases, or whether families are well-served by having their children lobby for vacation destinations they’ve seen advertised on Nickelodeon. Instead, marketers will learn to leverage “the best ways to tap into and use kids’ negotiation power.” In other words, they’ll learn how to get to kids to nag more effectively for their brands. In fact, just about everything objectionable about child-directed marketing will be on display at Kid Power. Concerned about the growing corporate presence in schools? At “Eyes Up Front Please. Getting Your Message to Kids in the Classroom” marketers will learn how to create “materials that align with National Standards so that the programs are a ‘need’ to teach and not a ‘want to teach'”. Appalled by the gendered messages that marketers sell to children? At Kid Power, marketers will learn how to create a “lifestyle brand” from Disney Princess. Horrified by children’s nonprofits that sell out children and families by collaborating with exploitative corporations? At Kid Power, marketers will learn about “Partnering with Organizations and Building Alliances” from US Youth Soccer Director of Marketing Chris Branscome. It was under Branscome’s watch that US Youth Soccer partnered with the lawn care company ChemLawn and sent mailings that were designed to get young soccer players to nag their parents for ChemLawn’s potentially toxic products. And then there are the awards. At Kid Power, marketers will actually celebrate and honor their peers for manipulating young children (only ads aimed at children twelve and under are eligible). According to the Kid Power website, campaigns are evaluated based on the following criteria: * Objective: the goal of the campaign * Strategy: how unique, compelling and insightful * Creativity: strategy and originality * Implementation: quality of campaign execution * Effectiveness Notice anything missing? Campaigns are not judged on whether they positively or negatively influence children. There is no evaluation of the message – whether it implies that children need a product to be happy or popular; whether it propagates gender or racial stereotypes – or even whether the product being advertised is good for children. That’s why, in the midst of growing concerns about the role junk food marketing plays in the childhood obesity epidemic, last year’s winner of the Best Campaign in Food and Beverage category was Burger King. As disturbing as the Kid Power Conference and Awards are, they offer an important lesson: If we are serious about protecting children from exploitative marketing, we cannot look to the marketing industry to take the lead or expect self-regulation to work. It is clear from the way the child marketers talk to each other and evaluate their peers, that the well-being of children is simply not a priority. It is up to those of us who value children for more than what they can buy to advocate for policies that will limit corporate marketers’ access to children. If we really want to empower our kids, we’ll allow them to grow up without being undermined by commercial interests. December 2005 The Commercialization of Narnia By Josh Golin When I was in fourth grade, after our class had finished reading C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, our teacher announced we were going on a special trip. After a short drive, we arrived at a wooded area covered in fresh snow. We walked for several minutes through the woods, our anticipation building with every step, until we arrived at a dilapidated, abandoned house. Our teacher gathered us close and asked if we knew where we were. When no one answered, she paused dramatically and then stage-whispered, “Narnia!” She didn’t have to say anything after that. For the rest of the afternoon, we raced around calling out our discoveries. The house became Professor Kirke’s large country house, which contained the magic wardrobe through which the children entered Narnia. And here was the spot where Lucy first met Mr. Tumnus the faun. And look at those tracks in the snow – those could only have been made by the great Aslan himself! For one afternoon, thanks to an ingenious teacher, C.S. Lewis’ wonderful story, and the power of our own imaginations, a rather unremarkable stretch of woods was magically transformed. I’ve been thinking a lot about that afternoon as Disney gets ready to release the film, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and Wardrobe. While the film will undoubtedly introduce (and reintroduce) millions of children to the wonderful world of Narnia, I fear the film is more likely to inspire trips to the mall than to the woods. My concerns have nothing to do with the content of the film (as of this writing, I haven’t seen it), but rather with all of the excess commercialism linked to The Chronicles of Narnia. According to Oren Aviv, head of marketing at Disney, the film has approximately $150 million in corporate tie-ins— an amount he believes is a record. Here’s a look at some of what the film will be promoting: * At a time when childhood obesity is a major public health problem, The Chronicles of Narnia is promoting junk food. McDonald’s is planning a line of Narnia Happy Meals. General Mills is featuring the film on boxes of cereal and touting its “Narnia-inspired” recipes. The Chex website proclaims, “It isn’t always easy to get to the land of Narnia . . . But with these delicious treats inspired by that magical land, you can get a taste of Narnia right at home. Mix up some magic today with Chex cereals and other tasty ingredients!” * At a time when child development experts are concerned about the commercialization of play, a slew of Narnia-themed toys will accompany the film’s release. Children play less creatively with toys based on media programs. Because these toys come with established characters and storylines, children are unlikely to use them to create their own world. Narnia toys include a line of action figures and several video games. * At a time of year when many families are overwhelmed by commercial messages and the true meaning of the holidays is often lost in a consumer frenzy, shopping malls owned by Taubman Centers will feature Narnia displays to attract customers for even more holiday shopping. While there, families can purchase Narnia porcelain dolls, photo albums, toothbrushes, and trading cards and can peruse the offerings from the estimated eighty brands that are partnering with the film. In short, the lesson that Disney is teaching through its Chronicles of Narnia promotions is the exact opposite of what my teacher taught me and my classmates twenty-five years ago – that Narnia is a magical outdoor place and entry is free using the power of your imagination. According to Disney, entry to Narnia is purchased at supermarkets, toy stores and malls. That’s the bad news. The good news is that the commercialization of Narnia offers an excellent starting point for a discussion about the impact of marketing on children. So if you share my concerns about the Narnia tie-ins and promotions, I hope you’ll raise them with other parents. If your child’s teacher is using Disney’s The Chronicles of Narnia Educator’s Guide, help them realize that by promoting the film, they are promoting junk food and junk toys as well. If your church has endorsed Narnia (Disney is actively promoting the film to clergy), here is a chance to point out that the film’s spiritual messages are undermined by its excessive commercialism. Is it acceptable for the film adaptation of a children’s classic to promote junk food and consumerism while undermining children’s play? Should definitions of “family-friendly” media be limited to discussions of sexual and violent content or should they be expanded to include the marketing and associated products as well? Is it just up to parents to deal with the inevitable nagging for Narnia products and food or should we have policies that limit marketing that directly targets children? These are the questions we must start asking if we hope to reclaim childhood from corporate marketers. Here’s hoping you and your family spend plenty of time in Narnia this holiday season – without ever stepping foot in McDonald’s or a mall. September 2005 Tickle U Is No Laughing Matter By Josh Golin “I will be very proud if moms treat us as a baby sitter.” – Alice Cahn, Cartoon Network’s Vice President for Programming and Development. Cartoon Network recently unleashed the latest commercial assault on young children in the form of Tickle U, a two-hour block of preschool programming that will air every weekday. Sadly, there is so much commercial media aimed at young children these days that ten more hours of television per week is hardly news in and of itself. What is new, however, are the claims that Cartoon Network is making about the educational benefits of its programs and how the programming is being marketed. Cartoon Network maintains Tickle U will help develop a child’s sense of humor. There is no evidence, however, that television aids in humor development. Nor is that an area in which children need a lot of help. As any parent knows, early childhood is not exactly a time devoid of laughter, humor or jokes. According to Dr. Diane Levin, Professor of Early Education at Wheelock College and author of Remote Control Childhood, children’s humor develops from “play and their natural interactions with the world around them.” For Dr. Levin, Tickle U “is a classic case of marketers trying to create a need where none exists and to dupe parents into thinking that watching more TV is good for their children.” Marketing for Tickle U is particularly egregious because it twists sound child development advice for commercial purposes. Tickle U’s marketing emphasizes the importance of play and humor to a child’s development and claims the programming bucks the recent trend to push kids to excel through structured learning. Yes, play and humor are extremely important to a child’s development. And yes, many educators and child development specialists are increasingly worried about the increased emphasis on structured learning for preschoolers and the academic pressure being placed on children at a younger and younger age. You’d be hard-pressed, however, to find anyone who isn’t a network executive or marketer who thinks the solution is to plop young children in front of the television. Many parents struggle with the issue of how much television their children should watch – and for good reason. There is increasing evidence that television can be harmful to young children. Television viewing is a factor in childhood obesity. Research also suggests that preschoolers who are heavy television viewers score lower on academic and intelligence tests later in life and are more likely to have attention difficulties. Thus when the Cartoon Network tells parents to lighten up and turn on the TV because it’s good for kids – a network executive calls the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation that children under two not watch any television “impractical” – it’s not only deceptive, it’s dangerous. | Dr. Susan Linn, CCFC’s co-founder, and author of Consuming Kids, notes, “There is growing concern about how much time children spend watching TV. We should not be fooled by network executives’ claims about the benefits of this commercial venture. Tickle U is just the latest attempt to get young children in front of screens – which is exactly where marketers want them.” Commercials will run throughout Tickle U, including for food of questionable nutritional value (Chuck E. Cheese is already on board) and Disney videos (promoting even more screen time for kids). In addition, there are plans to license Tickle U characters to toys, games, apparel, and food products. In order to promote Tickle U to young children, the Cartoon Network is bringing its marketing to places that marketers frankly don’t belong. A number of hospitals around the country have partnered with Cartoon Network to hold Tickle U Lifelong Laughter programs. These events are being promoted as a “celebration of laughter and fun”, but it’s not hard to imagine what the real take home message will be after kids meet the Tickle U characters and leave with DVD’s, branded stickers, and stuffed animals. And it gets worse. Cartoon Network has partnered with Scholastic and hopes to market Tickle U by sending Tickle U “curricula” to 20,000 preschool teachers. It’s bad enough when marketers appropriate the language of child development. But when they are assisted in their efforts by trusted institutions that should have children’s best interests at heart, it sends a particularly dangerous message to parents. If you share the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood’s concerns about Tickle U, there are a number of things you do: Become a Tickle U anti-viral marketer. Cartoon Network is enlisting moms as viral marketers to promote Tickle U. In exchange for a Kenneth Cole bag filled with goodies, moms are asked to spread the word about Tickle U to their friends and on blogs and in chat rooms. You too can spread the word – that kids don’t need television to develop a sense of humor and television is potentially harmful to young children. You won’t get a goodie bag – but you will be doing the right thing for kids. If you see Tickle U being promoted at your local hospital or preschool, ask them to stop. And if you let us know about it, we’ll ask them to stop too. We’ve also launched a major campaign to get Scholastic to end it’s partnership with Tickle U. Click here to tell Scholastic to stop marketing television in preschools. July 2005 Marketing and Parental Responsibility By Josh Golin We get a lot of questions about parental responsibility at the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC). If, the questions go, we are suffering from an epidemic of childhood obesity; if younger and younger children are consuming media with sexual and violent content; if 40 % of ten-year-old girls are on diets – isn’t it because parents aren’t properly monitoring their children’s activities or saying “no” often enough? Blaming parents is a popular sport these days. Even though we know that marketing is a factor in childhood obesity, eating disorders, precocious and irresponsible sexuality, youth violence, family stress and the erosion of children’s creative play, some people still like to point the finger at parents. Marketers do it because it takes the spotlight off them. Some politicians do it because it’s easier to talk about what parents are doing wrong than to consider policies that would restrict corporate access to children. Sadly, even parents blame other parents – and themselves – for their failure to do the impossible: completely shield their children from a marketing industry that refuses to respect parents’ authority as gatekeepers. It’s true that there are things parents can do to limit the influence of marketers over their children’s lives. Most importantly, they can limit their children’s screen time. This means no televisions in children’s bedrooms and limits on Internet use and video games, where children are increasingly targeted by ads and product placement. Parents can also talk to older children about how advertising works and help them understand the ways in which marketers are trying to influence them. But even the most attentive and well-intentioned parents cannot protect their kids from all child-directed marketing. For one, there is simply too much of it. Marketers spend more than $15 billion a year targeting children, much of it deliberately designed to circumvent parents and undermine their authority. The absence of parents is one reason corporations like to target children in schools. Viral marketing –which provides popular children with free products to market to their unsuspecting friends – is another way marketers make an end run around parents. At the same time, advertisements frequently undermine parental authority by encouraging children to nag for products. Any discussion of parental responsibility must recognize that marketers deliberately make it harder for parents to be responsible. Consider, for instance, the parents who decided not to take their kids to see Star Wars: Episode III-Return of the Sith because they were concerned that the extremely violent PG-13 movie was not appropriate – as George Lucas himself said – for young children. While they were being responsible, their kids were being bombarded with messages urging them to see the movie. Star Wars ads were on shows for young children on Nickelodeon such as RugRats. Ads for Star Wars themed junk food were everywhere. Star Wars toys were heavily advertised for kids as young as four. And even if parents were able to keep their children away from all media, the grocery store, and the toy store, they certainly couldn’t keep them away from other kids who were targeted by the same marketing and undoubtedly talking about Star Wars. Fighting the influence that corporations have over children is an overwhelming task. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Imagine, for a moment, that a person was telling your kids the things that marketers tell them. If someone were going around your neighborhood offering children junk food, or encouraging them to be violent or precociously sexual, or telling them that their happiness and popularity depended on owning a particular product, or urging them to go home and nag you, what would you do? You would do everything in your power to keep that person away from child, but you probably wouldn’t stop there. You might also talk to your friends and neighbors and let them know about the threat. You might contact your local officials to see if there was anything they could they do to protect your children. And if their answer was no, you might lobby your representatives to pass legislation that would protect them. Increasingly, this is exactly what parents and concerned citizens are doing to protect their children from corporate predators. Consider, for instance: In Seattle, Brita Butler-Wall was so troubled by the marketing she saw in schools that she co-founded the Citizen’s Campaign for Commercial-Free Schools. As if that wasn’t enough, she then ran for the Seattle School Board – and won! Now, with Dr. Wall as Board President, Seattle is a leader in the movement to limit corporate access to children in schools. In California, Becca Arnold was appalled by the marketing of violent media to children. So she started a website to track legislation around the United States that would restrict the sale of violent video games to children. Then she became a self-taught lobbyist – and worked to get one of these bills passed in her own state. The bill hasn’t passed yet – but thanks to Becca’s efforts, parents in California and around the country are contacting their representatives and asking for similar legislation. In the Quad Cities, a group of parents was so concerned after hearing a talk by CCFC’s co-founder, Dr. Susan Linn, that they decided to start their own chapter of our organization. Now, CCFC-Quad Cities helps raise public awareness about the harms of marketing to children throughout Iowa and Illinois. What do all these examples have in common? They demonstrate that responsibility means more than just trying to protect your own children. It means working to change a culture that values corporate profits more than children, and fighting to change the rules that allows marketers unfettered access to kids. Responsibility also means sharing your concerns about marketing with others. That’s why – with the help of our Quad Cities chapter – we’ve created a series of fact sheets about marketing to children. The sheets are organized by topic (e.g. Marketing in Schools, Marketing to Babies, Marketing and Childhood Obesity, Marketing Violence) and include resources for concerned parents and citizens. We hope you’ll take a look at these sheets and, if you’re concerned or angry about what you read, print them out and share them with your friends or family. Or bring them to your local church or community group or your local PTA. One family, in isolation, cannot fight a $15 billion industry. But by working together, we can reclaim childhood from corporate marketers. And what could be more responsible than that? May 2005 American Teens Feel Pressure to Want More, Nag More, New Survey Shows Betsy Taylor Advertising at its best is making people feel that without their productyou’re a loser. Kids are very sensitive to that. If you tell them to buy something, they are resistant. But if you tell them they’ll be a dork if they don’t, you’ve got their attention. – Nancy Shalek, former president of Grey Advertising Most parents understand the “nag factor” all too well. They know that their kids are bombarded by ads telling them to buy certain products in order to be popular. Then comes the nagging. According to a new national survey of youth commissioned by the Center for a New American Dream, the average American child aged 12-17 who asks their parents for products they’ve seen advertised will ask nine times until their parents finally give in. For parents of so-called “tweens,” the problem is particularly severe – amazingly, more than ten percent of 12-13 year olds admit to asking their parents more than fifty times for products they’ve seen advertised. The unfortunate fact is that kids feel an overwhelming need to buy a host of consumer goods in order to fit in. According to the study, nearly a third surveyed admitted feeling pressure to buy things like clothes, shoes and CDs because their friends have them. More than half confessed that buying certain products makes them feel better about themselves. “Parents and their kids are behind the eight ball,” says Betsy Taylor, executive director of the Center for a New American Dream. “As a result of unprecedented levels of advertising and marketing aimed at kids, our children feel intense pressure to try to bolster their sense of self-esteem at the mall, and they will go to incredible lengths to get their parents to give in.” Advertisers Strike it Rich Targeting Kids Advertisers now spend more than $230 billion a year, or $2,190 per household, according to advertising giant McCann-Erickson, and there is little question that much of that advertising is designed to effectively target kids. Kids 12-19 spent a record $155 billion of their own money in 2001, up from $63 billion just four years earlier. And according to kids marketing expert James McNeal, children aged 12 and under influenced more than $500 billion of their parents’ purchases in 2000. Brochure Offers Practical Tips for Parents Fortunately, there is much that parents can do to protect their kids from the pressure to buy more and get more. The Center for a New American Dream has just released an updated brochure called Tips for Parenting in a Commercial Culture, which can be downloaded for free from Here are just a few ways parents can get started: o Establish limits on how much “screen time” your children spend – both online and watching TV, and keep the computer and TV in public areas of the house. o Watch TV with your kids and mute the television during commercial breaks, or watch commercials together and help your children understand advertisers’ marketing techniques. o Make dinnertime special. Try to have a meal together with the whole family – even if it’s only once or twice a week. o Teach your child the value of money by setting up a savings plan together. o Don’t give in to the “nag factor.” If you don’t approve of a particular purchase, hold your ground and make your children understand that no means no. The Center for a New American Dream can put reporters in touch with young people who would be willing to discuss the pressures they feel to buy things in order to fit in, and with parents who can discuss the challenge of raising kids in a highly commercialized culture. Poll Highlights * Advertisers Preying on Kids’ Self-Esteem A majority of American youth buy things in an attempt to improve their self-esteem. More than half of those surveyed (53%) say that buying certain products makes them feel better about themselves. o Twelve and thirteen year-olds are particularly vulnerable. More than three in five (62%) say that buying certain products makes them feel better about themselves. Keeping Up With the Little Joneses a Big Problem While advertisers spend billions to make young people try to feel good about spending money and having things, kids nevertheless feel a great deal of pressure to spend to fit in. o Nearly a third of those surveyed (32%) admit feeling pressure to buy certain products, such as clothes, shoes and CDs because their friends have them. o Twelve to thirteen year-olds are particularly affected – more than half (54%) admit to feeling such pressure. No Means No…Until It Finally Means Yes Among the vast majority of kids (81%) who ask their parents for money or permission to buy a product, 4 in 10 say they know in advance that their parents will disapprove of the purchase before they even ask. And nearly 6 in 10 keep nagging – on average 9 times – in the hopes they can get their parents to give in. o This “keep asking strategy” is paying huge dividends for kids and marketers alike: 55% of young people surveyed say they are usually successful in getting their parents to give in. o Four in ten (40%) say they have asked their parents for an advertised product they thought their parents would not approve of. o Among these youth who have asked to buy products their parents disapprove of, nearly 6 in 10 (59%) say they do not give up – they keep asking in the hopes their parents will finally say yes. Children aged 12 to 13 (71%) are most likely to pursue this aggressive “nag factor” strategy. o The average young person says they have to ask nine times before their parents give in and let them have what they want. Eleven percent of 12-13 year olds admit to asking their parents more than fifty times for products they’ve seen advertised. * Poll commissioned by the Center for a New American Dream and conducted in May, 2002 by Widmeyer Communications. This information is based on a nationally representative telephone study of 750 American youth ages 12-17. The margin of error for the poll is +/- 3.5%. April 2005 Teach Your Children to be Responsible Consumers by Betsy Taylor American children spent $29 billion in 2001 – out of allowances, baby-sitting earnings, gifts and parental handouts. The average preteen spends six hundred dollars a year – almost all of it on him or herself. When your kids plan to make a purchase, teach them to be critical thinkers. Encourage your children to pause and think about where things come from, who makes them, and where the products eventually go when they’re tossed in the trash. Help your kids understand how our new global economy works: and how behind every product is a faraway story of someone who made and assembled the soccer ball, the tennis shoe, or the T-shirt. You can’t scrutinize every single purchase, but when the information is available, try to determine whether products are made under humane working conditions and in environmentally friendly ways. The two big questions all consumers need to start asking are, “Is this product coming from a factory where people are treated and paid fairly?” and “Is this product made and packaged to protect the natural environment?” In most cases, we don’t know. But environmental, labor, and consumer groups are working hard to get this information to the public, so look for new consumer labels and information. You can get your children to be conscious consumers by buying wisely with a few easy purchases: Organic cotton T-shirt (greatly reduces pesticide use and chemical exposure for farm workers). Compact disc packaged in recycled cardboard (not plastic). Earth-friendly school supplies (pens and pencils made from recycled materials, and recycled notebooks). 100 percent recycled printer paper for the home computer. Locally grown fruit and vegetables (helps local farmers thrive and reduces energy consumption). Energy-efficient computer and printer. Non-toxic cosmetics and personal care items made without animal testing. It’s important to start teaching your children about being a responsible consumer from a young age. On average, American children view over 20,000 television commercials each year, which works out to well over 50 ads a day. American children aged 2-18 spends nearly five and a half hours a day out of school consuming media in the form of television, music, magazines, video games and the internet. With hundreds of billions of dollars spent each year on advertising, it’s impossible to be immune from commercialism, but there are steps we can take to protect our children. If you have younger children try following some of these practical tips from my book What Kids Really Want that Money Can’t Buy to help you teach your children to be responsible consumers: Limit their exposure to commercial messages, primarily by limiting commercial television. Decide how much TV is enough and agree on the rule for your family, be it an hour a day, two shows a week, or any other formula that feels right to you. Equip them to analyze ads so they can’t be so easily manipulated. Set aside some evenings for a couple of weeks or a month to have your children analyze advertising with you. Help them see what advertisers are trying to sell through media such as magazines, billboards, and television. Turn it into a game by asking them, “What are they trying to sell and how are they trying to sell it?” Have a conversation about it. Work to strike a balance between giving kids the tools they need to evaluate their purchases but not overdoing it (your kids will tune you out.) Offer them positive alternatives to commercial entertainment and shopping as an antidote to boredom or low self-esteem. Remain consistent with your household rules and communicate your values. Walk the talk as best you can. Periodically buy some things that will provide true entertainment, growth, or lasting pleasure. Embrace the things kids say they really want that money can’t buy and you’ll discover that their nagging diminishes in proportion to the happiness they are finding in other places. When the going gets rough or you feel it’s all hopeless, just remember that in the long run your kids will deeply appreciate your efforts to protect them from commercialism. Nobody has all the answers, so we can only do our best. When you say no and teach them other ways, you are expressing your own powerful need to protect, nurture, and support the best in your children. Want to do the right thing but don’t know where to start? For more information, tips, and resources please visit and February 2005 What Kids Really Want that Money Can’t Buy by Betsy Taylor When you combine a parent’s busy schedule with the pressure of television commercials, shopping malls, and peer pressure you have a recipe for an over-indulged child. Today, there are an increasing number of parents who fear they are raising children to be the “I want” generation and many concerned moms and dads are looking for a way to break the cycle. In a nationwide survey commissioned by the Center for a New American Dream (, a majority of parents said they feel that their kids are overly materialistic, and many parents also believe they are losing ground in the struggle for the hearts, minds, and wallets of their children. According to our survey, nearly 9 in 10 Americans (87%) say that our current consumer culture makes it harder to instill positive values in our children. Betsy Taylor, President of the Center for a New American Dream, asked children to tell her what kids want that money can’t buy. More than 2,500 children responded by expressing their desire for more time to enjoy life and more old-fashioned fun. New American Dream took those very powerful and moving entries and used them as the basis for her book, What Kids Really Want that Money Can’t Buy, a collection of practical tips for raising kids in a commercial world. Five helpful tips from Betsy Taylor’s book What Kids Want that Money Can’t Buy. o Limit your children’s exposure to advertising. Not just to the materialism found in advertising, but also to other content in advertising and, generally, in the media, such as violence and sexuality. This suggestion may seem obvious but it is also the most challenging for most parents to implement. First, try setting a time limit your children spend in front of electronic screens each day. o Talk to your children about advertising while they are still young. Set aside some evenings for a couple of weeks or a month to have your children analyze advertising with you. Help them see what advertisers are trying to sell through media such as magazines, billboards, and television. Turn it into a game by asking them, “What are they trying to sell and how are they trying to sell it?” Have a conversation about it. (Don’t overdo it, though, or it will get tiresome for the kids.) o When you say no to something, say yes to something else. Ask yourself and your kids, “What do you really want that money can’t buy?” The number one thing children say they want is more quality time with their parents. If you say no to television or a shopping trip, then say yes to Scrabble, or to making a pie, or to learning how to play a game outdoors – even if you don’t really want to. Think about what gave you a sense of magic in your own childhood. Your teenage children may say they would rather go to the mall than go camping with you, but just try it! If they’ve never been, how would they know? Let them bring a friend or turn the camping trip into a party and bring a few other teens, and it will be an experience they’ll never forget. o Help your children connect to others. When there are opportunities for your children to make connections with extended family or with other support systems beyond your immediate family, take advantage of them. For example, if there is a family reunion, be sure your kids go, even if they say they don’t want to. It’s very important for young people to know that they have an extended support system. o Help your children become engaged in making the world a better place. Children say they want to help make the world a better place, but often, they feel they can’t or don’t know where to start. Parents can help children learn how to volunteer and be more engaged. Children whose parents are trying to help solve societal problems will feel more optimistic about the future. January 2005 Top Ten Alternative New Year’s Resolutions By Betsy Taylor This year make a resolution you can stick to. New Year’s Day is about making a fresh start. Instead of resolving to give up something, how about making a commitment this year to “Get More” out of life? Try starting small and pick a resolution or two that really matters to you and that you will actually enjoy sticking to. The Center for a New American Dream is a non profit that helps people live consciously, buy wisely and make a difference. The following resolutions are not only good for you, but also for the environment and the people around you. This year, make a pledge to get more of what matters in life! More Memorable Traditions. Make a box into a time capsule and decorate it with pictures of your hopes and dreams for the years to come. In the time capsule, each person in your family or circle of friends can deposit a journal of New Year’s Resolutions and goals they want to accomplish in the next year and reflect on accomplishments for last year. More Time. Slow down to pause and take a moment each day to yourself. Designate one or two nights a week where you turn off the television and make a meal and eat dinner with family or friends. More Money. Recover from holiday spending by making a plan to stay out of debt and stick with it all year long. Make a plan to increase your savings by setting up a direct deposit from your paycheck to your savings account. You’ll quickly adjust to the smaller pay, and your savings will grow year after year. More Fun. Get to know your neighbors by organizing a community potluck dinner traveling from house to house. More Adventure. Let your kids take one weekend a month to try new things or expose them to something they have never tried before. For example, if your teenage son has been begging to go play paint ball, try it together. More Good Deeds. Rack up your good karma points by doing a good deed for someone else (i.e., pay for someone’s toll behind you, shovel your neighbors’ walkway, or help them with their yard work). You can also volunteer at a homeless shelter or a retirement home throughout the year, when those places need the most help — not just during the holidays. More Nature. Instead of resolving to go to the gym three times a week, pick one day to go dancing, hiking, skiing, bike riding, or just resolve to spend more time outside. More Creative. Pick something you have never done before and make sure this is the year you do it. For example, try taking Japanese cooking or white water kayaking lessons. Take all of those holiday catalogs and make paper mache bowls as an art project for you and your kids. More Fit. Start your new diet by eating more organic and fair trade foods. Instead of punishing yourself with small portions and restrictions, try focusing on improving the quality of the foods you eat. More Organized. Clean out your closet and organize a clothes swap with friends or donate them to good will. For more New Year’s Resolutions ideas and to learn more about the Center for a New American Dream, go to December 2004 Not Sold in Stores: Ways to Save Money, Protect the Planet, and Spread Cheer. by Betsy Taylor With all the stress, expense, and expectation surrounding the holiday season, it can be a challenge to get through “the most wonderful time of the year” with our values and our wallets intact. Here are a few fresh additions to New American Dream’s eight years of holiday resources. For more tips and ideas from past seasons, download a free copy of our “Simplify the Holidays” booklet (or order a printed version) at Laying the Groundwork Starting slow and making gradual changes to entertaining and gift-giving rituals is the best rule of thumb. It may be too late to significantly re-think your family’s routine this year, but you can still set realistic goals (like knitting just two or three gifts!) and make other seasonal tasks more fun. • Host a cookie swap. Everyone loves cookies, but who really enjoys the giant, goopy mess of mixing a gazillion different kinds? Instead, bake in bulk and share. Six friends who each make six dozen of the same kind of cookie can meet for coffee and go home with a dozen of each kind. • Have a card party. Skip the poker and invite friends over to fill out your holiday cards instead. It won’t save you time, but it will turn an often tedious activity into a social gathering at a time when you might otherwise be too busy to see your friends! Noncommercial Gift Ideas Here are more clever ways to add meaning to your gift list while keeping costs low: • For distant friends and relatives who can’t make it home for the holidays, frame a picture of their family home as a special reminder of where they’re missed. • Take a friend off of junk mail. Generate automatic forms with your recipient’s name and address at to reduce unwanted mail by 50 percent. Present the forms in stamped, addressed envelopes ready to sign and mail. • Make an emergency kit. Do you know someone with an unreliable car? Create a gift basket with a blanket, flashlight, gas can, jumper cables, and flares. Does your friend walk home from work or class after dark? Give peace of mind with pepper spray, a whistle, and a prepaid calling card. • Buy renewable energy for a friend burning fossil fuel. Purchase “renewable energy certificates” (RECs) to offset travel or household energy use and promote the development of cleaner sources of energy. Online calculators can help you figure out how much it costs to offset typical energy use. Find regional energy providers at Green Tags (, the U.S. Department of Energy ( greenpower/buying), or Green-e (1-888-63-GREEN, The Bonneville Foundation also has seasonal giving programs at • Want to make a donation in someone’s name, but not sure where? The nonprofit Charity Checks (1-800-854-5601, allows recipients to choose which organization(s) receive the funds. • Give the gift of forgiveness. Call an estranged friend or write a letter to someone you haven’t seen in a few years. Creative Reuse Here are a few ways to make the time-honored tradition of secondhand giving easier and more fun: • Have a re-gift swap. We all have gift-quality things in our closets that we don’t actually use. Get together a few like-minded friends and trade tchotchkes. • Share a love of reading. Give away the last great book you bought and enjoyed to someone who shares your taste. You’ll get to talk about the story the next time you see each other, and you can always reread a copy at the library. • “Shop” for secondhand items online at (organized through email listservs),, or You’ll be amazed at what folks are giving away free or selling for peanuts — everything from pickup trucks to spatulas. • Get crafty. Stop throwing out corks and use them to make decorations. Skewer corks on strands of wire, alternating them with different kinds of beads, and twisting them into ornaments and “wino garlands” which can be hung around your home and gives away as clever novelty gifts for fellow wine-lovers. With creative flair, other items that reflect your interests can give a unique twist to holiday fare. Fun for Kids, Without the Presents Kids look forward to rituals year after year, but they don’t all need to be about presents. Find fresh ways to emphasize humor, nature, fun, and togetherness. • Several weeks before the holidays, ask your children to write down what they most want to do as a family (aside from shopping and gift-giving), and act on some of their suggestions, whether it’s having snowball fights, baking desserts, or watching favorite movies. • Storytelling is a powerful way to preserve family memories, especially if you exaggerate a few details for posterity. Maybe you didn’t really win a dreidl-spinning championship on ESPN, but your kids will enjoy retelling the details of your miraculous come-from-behind victory. • Designate an amount of money to donate, and let your kids pick the charity. Older kids can research different types of organizations and learn more about causes that match your family’s values. Wrapping Don’t add to the glut of pricey papers and bows in landfills this year. A few beautiful alternatives you probably already have around the house include: kids’ artwork, maps and travel brochures from favorite vacations, magazines, old comics, silk scarves, and fabric remnants. Gifts for the kitchen can be folded in cloth napkins or collected in a picnic basket and wrapped in a tablecloth. Gifts for Your Karma One of the best aspects of the holiday season is the kindness it can engender among strangers — when they’re not wrestling each other to the ground for the last dancing Elmo doll. After a divisive political season, a few acts of goodwill can be truly restorative to the giver and recipient. And what goes around comes around! • During holiday road trips, pay for the car behind you at the toll booth. • Shovel snow for an elderly neighbor. • Leave potted flowers or herbs anonymously on a friend’s doorstep. • Clean the cat box (et cetera) without being asked! • Send a card to a soldier overseas or an injured veteran spending the holidays in a military hospital. Scaling back at the holidays takes a little effort at first, but can be deeply rewarding, leaving more time for family, faith, or just some extra sleep. Regardless of what you celebrate, best wishes keeping it simple, sane, and truly fun. -written by senior editor Jennifer Errick November 2004 Your Kids Need More of You! By Betsy Taylor In a nationwide contest that my organization ran for children across the nation, we asked young people to answer the question, “What do you want that money can’t buy?” Not surprisingly, the top response was this: they want more of Mom and Dad! The good news is that more parents are taking steps to spend quality time with their children. According to a study released in 2001 at the University of Michigan, both working and nonworking parents spent more time with their kids in 1997 than they did in 1981. Many parents are doing everything in their power to make their children the top priority, and this is precisely what kids say they want! As much as we love and cherish our kids, it can be difficult to fully express our love and devotion in an age when many of us are definitely in over our heads. We’re juggling work, home, community, extended family, and more, and we often feel unable to give our children enough time. It wasn’t always like this. In fact, things were most likely very different in your own childhood. In asking for you, today’s kids are picking up on a relatively recent phenomenon: for the past three decades, parents and children have been spending less time with each other. American parents spent 40 percent less time with their kids in 1985 than they did in 1965. For the most part, this time crunch is because parents are working more. During the past decade, parents have become more aware of this dilemma and are often making heroic efforts to be with their children, but the demands of work are powerful. Americans working outside the job spent 142 hours (three and a half weeks) more per year on the job in 1994 than they did in 1973. The average American employee works nearly a full workweek more each year now than he or she would have just ten years ago. Kids lose out when we work too much. Parents are working more for several reasons: financial pressure related to healthcare, housing and education costs, along with workplace norms and rising material expectations that require ever more income. But in a recent poll by the Center for a New American Dream, nearly half of all those surveyed said they’d give up one day of work (and pay) to get more time. So how can you spend more time with your children? First, pay attention. Even if you child pushes you away (think teens), in her heart of hearts, she wants to be with you. Here are five things you can do to make sure your child gets a little more of that special parental attention: l)Create a Kid-Centered Routine – Try to have at least one small part of your day focused exclusively on each child. It might be a morning walk to the bus stop or coming together as a family at dinnertime (turning off the television and ignoring the hone.) You might devote ten minutes exclusively to being together at the end of the day for “tuck in” or chat together each night while doing dishes. Make it a regular time though and don’t be multi-tasking. Focus on your child. 2) Play Hooky – Once or twice a year, take a day off work and school (or perhaps a day off work when school is closed for teacher conferences) to spend time together. Use it to do something unpredictable and memorable. Ride bikes. See a play. Rent a canoe. follow your children’s passions. If they say all they want to do is watch a video, just take them off for an adventure anyway. Their initial resistance, in apart a consequence of habit, will usually be overtaken by their reawakened pleasure in fun pastimes, and you’ll all come home laughing. 3) Enjoy Simple Things Together – Sometimes life can feel like one highly scheduled, nonstop event. In the midst of school, homework and extracurricular activities, set aside some time for fun. Dance. Make a collage. Break out a board game or cards. Cook an apple pie, sing, or play a game of catch outside. Often it’s these shared simple experiences that create the happiest and most enduring memories. Go to for tips for parenting in a commercial world and ideas for simple living. 4) Consider reducing your workload – This is a little tougher for sure but a growing number of parents are opting to work less, spend less, save more, and have extra time as a result. We often work because we need the money. If you can find ways to reduce your spending, you just might gain a little freedom. Sometimes this involves investigating options for part-time work, job sharing, or working from home. This option is not available to everyone, either because of work demands or financial pressures. But more and more parents are opting out of the up scaling American dream in search of more time with their families. 5) Join with others in pushing for a nationally mandated reduced work week. The average European works 35 hours per week while the average American works closer to 43 hours. Go to the Take Back Your Time website at and check out their suggestions for action. In the end, life is short. We all know it but we get swept up in the rush. More work, more debt, more juggling. More e-mail, cell phones, and to-do lists. Meanwhile, our kids grow up. Grab the now. Hug your kid. Put little notes in their lunchboxes to surprise them. Plant a seed on your windowsill and marvel at it together. Do the simple things and just notice that your child probably wants a little more of you. And you probably want a little more time with them. October 2004 Facts About Marketing To Children By Betsy Taylor o In 2001 US advertising expenditures topped $230 billion, more than doubling the $105.97 billion spent in 1980. (1) o Given that the 2000 Census reports 105 million households in America, this means that advertisers spend, an average of $2,190 per year to reach one household. (2) o Marion Nestle, chair of the Department of Nutrition and Food Studies at New York University, estimates that $13 billion a year is spent marketing to American children – by food and drink industries alone. Food advertising makes up about half of all advertising aimed at kids. (3) o Channel One’s twelve-minute in-classroom broadcast, featuring 2 minutes of commercials for every 10 minutes of news, is compulsory on 90% of the school days in 80% of the classrooms in 40% of U.S. middle and high schools. Companies pay up to $195,000 for a 30-second ad, knowing that they have a captive audience of 8 million students in 12,000 classrooms across the country. (4) o Children’s spending has roughly doubled every ten years for the past three decades, and has tripled in the 1990’s. Kids 4-12 spent $2.2 billion in 1968, and $4.2 billion in 1984. By 1994 the figure climbed to $17.1 billion, and by 2002 their spending exceeded $40 billion. Kids’ direct buying power is expected to exceed $51.8 billion by 2006. (5) o Older kids, 12-19, spent a record $155 billion of their own money in 2001, (6) up from $63 billion just four years earlier. (7) o In the 1960’s, children influenced about $5 billion of their parents’ purchases. By 1984 that figure increased ten-fold to $50 billion. (8) By 1997 it had tripled to $188 billion. Kids marketing expert James McNeal estimates that by 2000, children 12 and under influenced family purchases to the tune of $500 billion. (9) o It’s estimated the average child sees more than 20,000 commercials every year – that works out to at least 55 commercials per day. (10) o Children spend a daily average of 4 hours and 40 minutes in front of a screen of some kind – two and a half hours of which are watching television. (11) o 47% of children have a television set in their bedroom. (12) o At six months of age, the same age they are imitating simple sounds like “ma-ma,” babies are forming mental images of corporate logos and mascots. (13) o According to recent marketing industry studies, a person’s “brand loyalty” may begin as early as age two. (14) o At three years of age, before they can read, one out of five American children are already making specific requests for brand-name products. (15) o Experts say a lifetime customer may be worth $100,000 to a retailer, making effective “cradle to grave” strategies extremely valuable. (16) o According to a Kaiser Family Foundation study, children who use the most media tend to be the least contented. (17) o In the Art/Essay Contest “What Do Kids Really Want That Money Can’t Buy?” sponsored by the Center for a New American Dream, the most common answers were “love,” “happiness,” “peace on earth,” and “friends.” Significant numbers of children also wanted time with family, a clean environment, a world where people treat each other with respect, a chance to see lost loved ones, help for suffering people, health, and time to play. Action Tips o Get rid of the TV. o Expose kids to other media – surrealist films, conceptual art exhibits (carefully selected), gatherings of interesting adult friends with non-mainstream stories to tell. o Remove the logos from clothes, theirs and yours. Talk with kids about why you’re doing this. Suggest to kids to design their own, personal logos. o See a wonderful passage on commercialism and consumerism by Brian Swimme at o Parents who resist consumerism for themselves are the ones who teach their children to resist it. o Teach children to be doers and creators rather than shoppers and buyers. o Supply them with sidewalk chalk, old cardboard boxes and other makings of creative play. o Grow your own food. Involve the kids. Teach your child of the connections within the natural world. Experience their beauty together. Talk about where things come from, who made them, what they are made of. o Teach by example and conviction a set of values that allow kids to make their own choices. o Teach kids empathy for others. Instead of buying toys, suggest they spend the money bringing some groceries to the local food bank. Footnotes (1) McCann-Erickson U.S. Advertising Volume Reports and Bob Coen’s Insider’s Report for December 2001 ( Accessed 5/8/02.) (2) Ibid., and U.S. Census reports. (3) Marion Nestle and Margo Wootan as quoted in “Spending on Marketing to Kids Up $5 Billion In Last Decade,” The Food Institute Report, April 15, 2002. (4) Center for Commercial-Free Public Education, “Channel One.” Accessed 6/5/02. (5) James McNeal, The Kids’ Market: Myths and Realities, Ithaca: Paramount Market Publishing, Inc., 1999, and The U.S. Kids Market, a 2002 report from Packaged Facts available at (6) National Institute on Media and the Family “Children and Advertising Fact Sheet” 2002. Accessed 5/8/02 (7) Peter Zolo, “Talking to Teens,” American Demographics, November 1995. (8) James McNeal, “Tapping the Three Kids’ Markets,” American Demographics, April 1998. (9) Kim Campbell and Kent Davis-Packard, “How ads get kids to say I want it!” Christian Science Monitor, September 18, 2000. (10) American Academy of Pediatrics, “Television and the Family” fact sheet. Accessed 5/9/02. (11) Annenberg Public Policy Center, “Media In The Home 2000: The Fifth Annual Survey of Parents and Children”, (12) Ibid. (13) James McNeal and Chyon-Hwa Yeh. “Born to Shop,” American Demographics, June 1993, pp 34-39. (14) Cited in “Brand Aware,” Children’s Business, June 2000. (15) “New Poll Shows Marketing to Kids Taking Its Toll on Parents, Families.” Center for a New American Dream, 1999. (16) James McNeal and Chyon-Hwa Yeh, “Born to Shop,” American Demographics, June 1993. (17) Kaiser Family Foundation, “Kids & Media @ The New Millennium,” 39. see

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