Friday, July 23, 2010

Parental Responsibility

I wanted to respond to a comment left on this post from Rivqa, an editor based in Sydney, Australia.
She writes,

"I'm very sympathetic to parents under pressure of pester power but I think they are the ones who need to draw the line. The kids clearly aren't able to!"

And, this is a common statement which I agree with, with a BUT.

At the end of many discussions regarding sexualized and violent behavior seen in kids, and the rapid decline of the health of the American child (from increase in obesity to increase in mental health disorders), it's typically wrapped up like this, "Well, the parents have a responsibility to protect their child, and to shape their child.  And now, let's cut to a commercial."

For those of you who were able to view all of the film Consuming Kids, the final segment deals specifically with parental responsibility and what it means.  You can watch the last couple minutes here.

In the wrap up, Susan Linn, Director of Campaign for a Commercial Free-Childhood, says, "We have a $15 billion dollar industry that is working day and night to undermine parental authority."

Enola Aird, of The Motherhood Project, makes this analogy, "It's akin to an owner of a large fleet of trucks announcing that our fleet of trucks, from now on, is going to be barreling down the road, especially where children are, at 150 miles per hour.  Parents, watch out, it's your job to take care that your children don't get hurt."

Two things are needed:
1. parental responsibility.
2. help for us responsible parents.

And heck, even help for the irresponsible parents.

Because all them kids gonna be mixed together in the classroom soon enough, so let's all just help each other out, shall we?  I won't tsk tsk your terrible and irresponsible parenting if you don't mock the fact that my daughter often strips down to her underwear the moment we get home.  Because it just feels better, hanging out in your underwear. 

We have now seen what it looks like when there are no rules whatsoever regarding marketing to children.
It is UG-ly.
Since companies don't have a code of ethics, intervention is needed.

I want to work on both fronts.
I want to be more responsible as a parent.
And, for Pete's sake, I want to not step into a tsunami of shite each time I leave my house with my child.  It is wearying to the bone.


  1. ?I want to work on both fronts.
    I want to be more responsible as a parent.
    And, for Pete's sake, I want to not step into a tsunami of shite each time I leave my house with my child. It is wearying to the bone."

    Amen, sister!!!

    -changed my profile, but it's still me. :-)

  2. Well after looking at the pictures of your tsunami, I've got to agree with you. It's bad here, but nowhere near as bad.

    It is SO easy to market to kids. They eat it up even if they've never seen the show, they still know all the characters. We don't have a TV so I know pretty accurately what's an outside influence. For me, it's manageable to say no, I won't buy whatever princess/Barbie/Toy Story item she wants, because she already has plenty. But the onslaught just isn't as great.

    I guess that leads to the question of how harmful are these things, if it's not too extreme? If it's in the context of other modes of play, etc? How can we catch the yellow flags, so that we don't get to the red ones that you've listed in your sidebar?

  3. PS Nothing wrong with stripping down to underwear! Kids have got to be nudists while it's still semi socially acceptable.

  4. Amy R--like your new pic...what a heavy question mark you carry!

    rivqa-- Re: yellow vs. red flags, I'm guessing that since your home is tv-free, you are likely a mindful consumer, more aware of internal vs. external influences. I think that is an incredible form of protection. I'd love to see you post about it. :)
    "How harmful, if it's not extreme..." What I've found is that since the marketing here is so extreme, the presence of scripted materials tends to go trickle to tidal wave quickly, leading to vastly decreased interest in other modes of expressive play.
    and PS---I agree. C grabs as much "naked time!" as she can.

  5. I guess I got lucky. I understand what this organization is trying to do and I applaud it. But when my kids were small, I took some initiative and stopped the begging for stuff before it started.

    How? I would watch with them and ask them questions. Do you think the toy works that way in real life? What else do you think it can do? Do you think you would want to play that same thing every single day?

    And when we would go to the department store with display models (fortunately they were usually damaged by that time), I would prove that the commercial was like wrapping a boring sweater in cool paper. It looked lovely, but wasn't all that.

    My goal in doing this was to teach my kids to think for themselves and not let Madison Avenue do it for them. This applied to toys, clothes, cereals (don't even get me started!) and anything else that was promoted to them.

    In addition, I made sure that they paid at least a portion of the cost of any new toy that they "just had to have" out of their own pocket money (earned doing extra chores around the house or for grandparents, friends, etc.) This way, they really felt the impact of their decision. "You can buy that fancy doll, but then we can't go eat at your favorite restaurant like you wanted to do."

    Sure, they might have missed out on a few toys, but they learned lessons that are still benefiting them in early adulthood. My 19 year old daughter is able to manage her money and not fall for every fad that comes along. My son has had a tougher time, but at 17, he's getting there.

  6. OK, I blogged!

    Took me a while... I just started working again (from home), exhausting!