$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