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Society & Ecology
Monday, September 27, 2004  
Commercialisation of Childhood

Born to Buy

I attened a talk with Juliet Schor this weekend, on commercialisation of childhood. The information was similar to what I have received in drips here and there, but it is scary to receive a fuller picture. Some of what is going on...
  • Children, in particular the tweens (between child and teen), are seen as drivers of family consumption, and the new target group for marketing
  • Ad agencies use a variety of techniques to market to kids, including peer-to-peer marketing, dual messaging (ads for kids, and ads for parents to say it is OK), creating "wholesome halos" for a product, etc.
  • Food is an important product group (consumed by everyone and on a daily basis), and children increasingly determine what foods the family eats.
  • Several of the largest food companies are owned by or in ownership groups that includes large tobacco companies. The strategies used to market tobacco is now used to market food.
  • Corporations make strong inroads in schools, including through "news" programming (Channel One - exposing school kids to 10 hours of commercials a year) and ready-made and "free" curricula designed for indoctrination.
Juliet Schor also found that levels of media exposure for children causes increased consumer involvement, which in turn leads to increased levels of anxiety, depression, head- and stomackaches, and deteriorating relationships with parents.
Level of media exposure >>> consumer involvement/mindset >>> anxiety, depression, head/stomackaches, deteriorating relationships with parents.
Consumer Culture & Human Needs

It is disturbing to see how generations of human beings are absorbed into a materialistic culture. One where the strategies they learn are (a) incapable of meeting most of their needs and (b) often prevent them to meet their needs in deeply fulfilling ways (spend too much time on comsumer related activities such as work, buying, maintenance, etc. to have time for family, friends, community and deeply nourishing activities).

Everything is cyclical and impermanent, so it will not last. But the question is if this culture will collapse for ecological and social reasons (unravelling of ecosystems, social instability due to increasing gap between the few rich and the many poor) or human reasons (internal self-correcting processes w/in human beings). It will most likely be a combination.

This type of large scale culture change will happen for some because they want to, and most because they have to.

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