I just realized that the entire “Consuming Kids: The Commercialization of Childhood” documentary I mentioned the other day (I posted the trailer) can be viewed on YouTube in 10-minute segments.

Most kids’ childhoods are saturated in corporate marketing specifically targeted to their particular life stage and interests. The onslaught of messages accelerates kids’ spending, turning them into temporarily satisfied—or, rather, perpetually discontented—consumers. In the process, researchers and doctors are seeing health problems abound and the se^u*aliz^tion (I’m using symbols for letters to discourage unwanted spam) of young girls speed up as questionable values are promoted.


Decide for yourself if there are action points you want to take.

You may not agree with the analysis provided by the counselors, doctors, and spokespeople from not-for-profit family organizations who explain their concerns in the film.

But at least it may generate some healthy discussion among family members.

Consider how to slow down childhood in a commercialized culture.

Part 1: Children’s own personal purchasing power totaling $40 billion/year and children’s purchasing influence of $700 billion/year motivate corporations to aggressively market specifically to kids, encouraging the “nag factor” and convincing kids that life is about buying and getting.

Part 2: 1980s government deregulation freed up companies to create television programs and movies specifically to sell products like junk food, toys, bed linens, backpacks, and clothing that reinforce the characters in the programs; also, kids ignore product placement, not realizing how they’re being influenced.

Part 3: Marketing is much more than commercials—now in schools, on cell phones and on Internet, micro-targeting kids by following preferences. Also, marketers use research to get inside the minds of kids to discover their preferences.

Part 4: The study of kids using tools such as MRIs and blink tests to determine response to ad stimulus, discovering precise combination of shapes, characters, color, etc. It’s not just products being marketed, but values. Also, age compression (kids getting/growing older faster).

Part 5: (disclaimer/warning: clips in this segment illustrating a sampling of the violent images geared toward kids–especially toward boys–are disturbing, though common enough you might not be shocked; also, a clip from a PG-13 movie shows a raunchy stand-up comedy routine) This segment covers a lot of ground, including the trend of accelerating learning with “good” media.

Part 6: Some of this segment deals with creative flee play (marketing says to kids that their imagination is not good enough and essentially takes play out of children’s hands); also, research suggests that increased media input in kids correlates with increase in psychological and physical problems.

Part 7:  In the future, what’s the role of government/FTC? It is the parents’ responsibility to choose what children watch, eat, and buy, but parents are up against a multi-billion-dollar industry specifically targeting their kids. Should a policy be in place to protect children when the marketplace doesn’t?

Extra Feature: What Parents Can Do

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Get to know Ann Kroeker better at annkroeker.com