Economic Crisis Wake Up Call: End Childhood Commercialization, Commodification, and Consumption

Childhood for sale$17 billion a year is spent by the advertising and marketing industry to shape our children’s desires and identities.

Now that the economic recession gripping the world is causing free market ideals to be questioned, it’s time to examine its effects on our children.  Henry A. Giroux writes:

While the “empire of consumption” has been around for a long time, American society in the last thirty years has undergone a sea change in the daily lives of children – one marked by a major transition from a culture of innocence and social protection, however imperfect, to a culture of commodification. This is culture that does more than undermine the ideals of a secure and happy childhood; it also exhibits the bad faith of a society in which, for children, “there can be only one kind of value, market value; one kind of success, profit; one kind of existence, commodities; and one kind of social relationship, markets.”(2) Children now inhabit a cultural landscape in which they can only recognize themselves in terms preferred by the market.

Is it true that our culture only values our children based on the products they sell them?  As a parent, such a thought is sickening to me but not far from the truth when our country’s success/failure is measured by Gross National Product (GNP).
The greed of corporations leaves our children victims of western culture. Take for example Disney’s efforts to use casino capitalism to strategize products for boys between the ages of six and fourteen, because this age group spends $50 billion worldwide. Once again, Henry A. Giroux writes:

As part of such efforts, Disney has enlisted the help of educators, anthropologists and a former researcher with “a background in the casino industry” to not only study all aspects of the culture and intimate lives of young boys, but to do so in a way that allows Disney to produce “emotional hooks” that lure young boys into the wonderful world of corporate Disney in order to turn them into enthusiastic consumers.

I guess Disney is targeting boys since they pretty much have young girls wrapped up in the princess craze.  Such actions by corporations like Disney have created a perspective that childhood is a saleable commodity.  What has happened to ethics? It saddens me to think that multi-billion dollar corporations are the cultural force shaping youth today.  More wise words from Giroux on the subject:

What is distinctive about this period in history is that the United States has become the most “consumer-oriented society in the world.” Kids and teens, because of their value as consumers and their ability to influence spending, are not only at “the epicenter of American consumer culture,” but are also the major targets of those powerful marketing and financial forces that service big corporations and the corporate state. In a world in which products far outnumber shoppers, youth have been unearthed not simply as another expansive and profitable market, but as the primary source of redemption for the future of capitalism – even as it implodes.  Erased as future citizens of a democracy, kids are now constructed as consuming and saleable objects.

As parents, we must say no and protect our children from the commercialization of childhood that is rampant in American society.  My children’s childhood is not for sale!

Image by davidchartier on Flickr under a Creative Commons License

Comments

  1. Where I live, any TV ad targetting children under 13 is prohibited at hours those kids are listening.

    I don’t know if it helps though. I hope.

  2. All…heartily recommend supporting the film “Consuming Kids” which tackles this head on…We’re co-sponsoring a S.F. Bay Area premiere in Berkeley after Earth Day (4-24) with panelists from the movie itself. Definitely go for the DVD, and if you CAN…get your school or parent ed forums to host an impactful screening…it gets people’s attention.

    p.s. I WILL say that as much as Disney hawks tons of stuff, I have high hopes that their new nature studio will have the clout to put forth a different message (other than selling polar plushies) and force some self-rein in the proliferation of absurd visuals like we’ve got in this piece above…eesh.

  3. What is wrong with you people !? Do you not believe that as capitalists we Americans should in fact have the right to exploit all that is exploitable,for the sake of financial profit ?! Why should children, who are nothing more than the capitalist exploiters of the future be protected from capitalistic manipulation today ? Do you not agree that all value is derived from the market and only the market !?

    We should not sheild children from capitalism now should we ? Do we really want our young to believe in the existance of values beyond those associated with commercialism ? My God imagine what might become of the world if we allowed our young to learn the truth that the marketplace is not the holly grail of humanity ! Imagine a world in which people actually grew food for the sake of feeding people as opposed to making a profit !! Imagine that in the absence of capitalism if people studied and practiced medicine because of an interest in medicine,or a concern for people;my God what would become of the insurance industry ?! Can you imagine the kind of world this planet could become if in the absence of capitalism,people who do not own land, actualy had a right to live upon the planet without paying someone else for that right !? Freedom for the masses could and most likely would be commonplace, in the absence of capitalism ! Is this what you want for our children !? Are you not terrified by the thought that in the demise of capitalism people would no longer have a need to get ahead or somehow be better than other people ? Do you really want your children to be able to if they choose so,to live their lives free from forced compitition ? Imagine that instead of a future of economic struggle and compitition,that our young would one day actually have the time and energy to cooperate with others,hold a family together and ponder just what it means to be human.Again,what is wrong with you people !? Well,whatever is wrong with you folks, I sure hope it is contagious !

  4. Look, if you keep your kids away from Disney at an early age, Disney’s efforts are wasted. If you don’t buy your kid everything they want just because it’s fashionable, they will not become consumers.

    I have a six year old boy. He watches TV but, from an early age, we told him commercials are junk. We DVR his shows and fast forward through the commercials.

    Take control. Disney, et.al. have only the power we give them. Remember, they became so rich and powerful because we chose for them to be this way.

    Every dollar we spend is a vote for, or against something. Think before you spend and none of this will be an issue.

Trackbacks

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  2. […] time – childhood? Jennifer Lance at Eco Child’s Play cites the disturbing way that Disney is targeting young boys, apparently enlisting the help of “a researcher with a background in the casino […]

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  4. […] cereal, light up shoes to vehicles are children are being brainwashed when they turn on the tube! Eco Child’s Play and Nature Mom both have written great articles on this topic for those that want to learn just how […]

  5. […] their commercialization power to distribute their ideologies to the public with an example like this. Aside from those two suggestions, I feel your post was nicely done and […]

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