Consumer Kids

View the book on Amazon

How much screen time do we allow the kids? I blogged on about this issue a little while ago – here.

What we didn’t mention is the insidious influence on our kids of the advertising, commercial, materialistic and celebrity worlds portrayed on screens.

‘Consumer Kids’ is a book attempting to raise awareness of that very issue. It’s by Ed Mayo and Agnes Nairn and is a rather scary and shocking insight into the way businesses groom kids through screens of all sorts for a materialistic and consumerist future.

I’ve often had the feeling that schooling plays a part in this grooming. It grooms kids to the idea that education is just another materialistic acquisition – something to get, i.e. grades – rather than being a process that is lifelong and has other more valuable elements. And the culture of comparison and competition in schools, which influences their image, possessions and lifestyle, sets children against one another rather than uniting them.

There are efforts in schools to make kids ‘media literate’ as they call it, to help kids see through advertising strategies and the consumer culture, but the authors suggest that its impact is far outweighed by the power of marketing. Besides it’s a bit of a double standard if on the one hand schools have ‘media literacy’ on the curriculum while on the other they host vending machines for commercial purposes that are full of junk with little nutritional value to the child.

Yet another advantage of home education; better control over this commercial and materialistic influence, an influence which also harms the planet.

While home schooling you can discuss issues like advertising and spending when they arise, raise awareness of the impact of big businesses on our lives and the earth, and encourage your kids to make independent, informed and personal decisions about what they like, rather than decisions made under peer pressure. There will always be peer pressure but it is never as great as it is within a school.

And if your kids are used to deciding what they like and what to choose independently, that skill of knowing their own mind will stand them in good stead all their life.

Among the concerns raised in the book there’s a beautiful piece towards the end about what they think children need:

‘…children need inner strength and understanding to flourish – not materialism. They need warm bonds of friendship with their peers – not competitive consumption. They need strong relationships with their parents – not the alienation that can be encouraged by marketing. They need to be occupied in projects which work for the common good of a community. In a commercial world, the odds are stacked against achieving this.’

But maybe not so much in the home educating world, don’t you think? And something for your home schooling to work towards perhaps.

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6 thoughts on “Consumer Kids

  1. We don’t ration screen time so we’ve done a lot of ‘media literacy’. Cupcake will often turn round and say “They’re just trying to get me to spend my money on something I don’t need!” when adverts come on.

    We also talk about product placement in movies, and general characterisation and so on that suggests happiness lies in ‘stuff’. As you say, there is so much more that grooms our children to become relentless consumers than straightforward advertising alone. I absolutely agree that even the concept of school fits that model – especially now that higher education is so expensive and the whole ‘accreditation’ bandwagon is so lucrative for those doing the accreditting.

    Certainly, I think it is easier for HE kids to put advertising and other consumer pressures in context as their whole lives are more in context! Their day to day living is proof that people can make alternative choices and be happier for having made them.

    • Thanks for this Lily – it’s just so important that kids get that talk time with adults like you do. I think it’s that which puts things in perspective and teaches them so much.

  2. We have talked about advertising its an ongoing thing really and its EVERYWHERE!! A while ago my children watched a documentary about branded products and why people bought them ( I can’t remember the title!) and they really learnt a lot about how products where marketed at an audience.

    • Thanks for posting – yes, advertising is SO seductive. I’m not competitive really, but I do tell the kids to try and beat the advertising giants at their own game and refuse to be seduced by it!

    • Thanks so much for commenting. It is actually the younger children who were mostly targeted according to the book – quite frightening to read how clever the marketing can be. And how gullible we all are!

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