Adriana Barbaro and Jeremy Earp, in their film Consuming Kids, touched upon the urgent problem of our society, namely, the problem of massive marketing and media attack on children. First of all, I should say that I was impressed by the film. In particular, I was shocked by the figures presented, as well as the arguments presented by child psychologists and marketers. This made me think about two things: the professional work of the creators who managed to persuade me of the urgency of the problem and how, in essence, the same way of media influence is used to persuade children to consume more.
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The statistics presented in the film show that the United States experienced the largest burst in the youth population in recent years. The 52 million children in the United States became the target audience for businesses aiming at making money on their naïve outlook and unstable mentality (Savage, 2012). Kids not only spend $40 million every year but also influence the astronomic amount of $700 billion in parental spending (Savage, 2012).
The last figure can be compared to the combined economies of 115 poorest countries (Savage, 2012). Such a huge market attracts corporations to develop marketing techniques aimed at gaining more and more potential customers. Child psychologists emphasize that growing up is an emotionally and mentally difficult process, and marketers use children’s favorite characters in advertising, leveraging their desires to possess something they watch in cartoons and movies and making money in such a way (Savage, 2012).
It is claimed that marketing specialists apply behavioral science to influence children’s minds, “they want to be a part of a fabric of children” (Savage, 2012). Dr. Michael Brody, a child psychiatrist, explains these arguments further, comparing the marketers to pedophiles in their desire to know what children want and to predict their actions (Savage, 2012).
In the context of gender norms, the commercialization of children makes them growing up too early, negatively influences their manner of behavior and style of communication. Not seventeen years old girls read Seventeen magazine but those who are only twelve, thirteen, and fourteen years old. It can be said that marketing steals their childhood.
It should be said that the film made a positive influence on me, making me think about the problem. The media should fulfill its primary function of making people aware and giving them food for thought but not use kids’ mentality as a source of making money.
The Sociological Explanation of the Film Synopsis
The commercialization of children sharpens the changes which have already occurred in society. The desire to be cool and to be mature motivates teenagers to start intimate relationships at an early age. Cohabitation before marriage has become common and acceptable to most people (Cherlin, 2013b). However, it is an important step which should be taken by emotionally mature and stable people. Teenagers should be explained the difference between the concepts of gender identity and personal identity, or what is more important, the meaning of mature personality (Butler, 1990).
The undervaluation of marriage importance leads to the increasing number of single mothers. However, the role of the father in the kids’ upbringing is essential. “Over and above mother engagements, fathers’ supportiveness matters for children’s cognitive and language development across ages as well as children’s social and emotional behaviors, but less consistently” (Cabrera et al., 2007, p.212).
The solvation to the problem of children’s commercialization boils down to both the recognition of parents’ responsibility in explaining social and gender norms and the implementation of policy restricting certain kinds of commercials. Nowadays, scholars differentiate between social and biological gender, the former is developed under the influence of media and fashion trends, and the latter implies the naturally inherent gender identity (Cherlin, 2013a).
Butler, J. (1990). Gender trouble. In L. J. Nicholson (Eds.), Thinking Gender (pp. 16-25). New York, USA: Routledge.
Cabrera, N. J., Shannon, J. D. and Tamis-LeMonda C.. (2007). Fathers’ Influence on their Children’s Cognitive and Emotional Development: From Toddlers to Pre-K. Applied Development Science. 11(4): 208-213.
Cherlin, A. J. (2013a). Public and private families: a reader. New York, USA: McGraw Hill.
Cherlin, A. J. (2013b). Public and private families: an introduction. New York, USA: McGraw Hill.
Savage, J. (2012). Consuming Kids. Web.