Childhood Going Extinct?

11 Dec

It’s no secret that the amount of commercialized products have dramatically increased over the past couple decades. Also, younger and younger children have begun to act older and older. How younger girls dress now has always been a huge issue in my mind. I have not liked seeing kids I’ve known since they were born wear make-up and miniskirts way before I was ever comfortable to.

I had no idea how far the issue actually went until I saw “Consuming Kids: The Commercialization of Childhood,” a documentary about the industries’ influence on children.

This problem goes so much deeper than just how little girls are starting to dress. As soon as children are born, brands are put in front of their faces.

Industries shortly noticed that children were the main factor in what the parents buy. The documentary named it the ‘Nag Factor’ and said that children are the influence of $700 billion of money spent.  Basically, that means that if the children nag enough about something they want, the parents will eventually break down and get it. Which in most cases, you have to admit that it is true.

Once the industries get a hold of the younger kids, they pretty much have them for life. I remember as a kid my favorite movie was The Little Mermaid. I still find myself buying The Little Mermaid products just because of that emotional connection I had starting out at childhood.

Think about how many brands surrounded you as a baby. There was probably Barney blankets, Sesame Street kitchen ware, and Nickelodeon stuffed animals etc. Companies have been branding their TV shows and movies endlessly so that their characters faces will be plastered on almost anything.

So is this good or bad? Honestly, I think it is both. It matters how the products are being presented and how far the industries will go to make money.

I do not think that having characters that the children love around the house is bad. The two little boys I babysit especially love Mickey Mouse and Elmo. So when the kids see their favorite characters it makes them happy. And of course seeing those two little boys smile is one of the best things ever. Since the boys like these characters, I can easily attach learning techniques to them.

For examples, let’s say that one of the boys sees Elmo.

I can ask, “Who is that?”

The little boy responds with “Elmo!”

“What color is Elmo?”

“Red.”

“What else is red?”

“Apples!”

“What letter does apple start with?”

And so on. We also point out the different characters’ nose, mouth, ears, eyes etc and then they have to show me on their body where the same body parts are.

I do not think that these innocent characters can harm children by being around their house. Connections with characters like Mickey and Elmo are fun and can last their whole life. I do not regret my connection with Ariel at all. However, it is not hurting me because it was not being presented in a negative or persistent light.

The children really start being hurt by this when the markets’ priority shifts from the children’s happiness to just them making money. Obviously, money has to be somewhat of a priority because without money the businesses will end. However, this should not overshadow the consumers’ education and well being.

This is not only with children, this senselessness can be seen everywhere. There are tons and tons of commercials on TV advertising silly products that do not even work. They use cheap tricks and different ways to try to prove to the viewer that their product works. However, they usually end up not working and then they make returning the product almost impossible. The company ends up with money even if you send it back, because that, after all, was the main goal to them in the first place.

With children, industries are truly beginning to take things too far. They are putting kids under a microscope. Even though the industries are saying that they are doing close research to figure out what kids want, I believe they are influencing different items on children saying, ‘you should want and have this.’

For example, when I was a kid I never thought about make-up and what I was gonna wear on the weekends. It was non-stop fun and playing outside. Yes, once in a while we would love to play Nintendo 64 or Game Boy but it was not a priority to everyday life. This is honestly saying a lot because I went to a pretty materialistic school. However, all of the comparisons of what some kids have and other don’t, did not really start until High School.

There was no need for us to wear make-up, lots of jewelry and wear the latest brands. I believe that now industries are looking towards younger kids so that they can make more money. The market is making children believe that they need these things at a younger age to be cool, not that kids are demanding them. They are demanding them because society makes them feel like if they do not, they are not ‘in.’

This is just one big vicious cycle. Kids should not be under this kind of pressure so young. Their worries should not include what they wear, how they look, how straight their hair is, how tan they are, and how many boyfriends they have. Society should let kids be kids.

I would give anything to have my childhood back, and kids now are giving away childhood not even understanding how precious it truly is. I hope they do not grow up regretting that they wanted to grow up faster than they should have.

Some quotations that people in the documentary said where, “What you buy is who you are” and “life is about buying, life is about getting.” Is that what we really want to teach our kids? Kids today are all about stuff. They have to have the latest stuff, the coolest stuff, the most expensive stuff, the smallest stuff, the biggest stuff, and stuff stuff stuff.

Now is a more important time than any to be teacher younger kids about what really matters in life. Material stuff can be thrown away and it never last. Even though families can be under a lot of pressure because of jobs, bills, and kids needs etc, they should try to find some family time to show that love and family is what really matters more than getting the latest iPad. Also, since it is the season of giving, I would suggest showing younger kids how to give back.

If you are wondering on how to do so, here is a website on how to get involved in St. Jude’s and here is a link on how to get involved with the Special Olympics. You never know how many lives a simple kind gesture will change for the better.

So now that I have kind of rambled off topic, let’s get back to the main point shall we?

Childhood is becoming extinct before our eyes. Kids now want to grow up and be rich or famous or live in a big house or drive an expensive car or in most cases, all of the above. There is no pride in being a nurse, mailman, truck driver or any of those jobs anymore. Now, kids do not understand why it is bad to want to grow up and be rich and famous. So then why should we put these ideas into their heads at such a fragile age?

The wrong values are being sold to children. The wrong values are even being sold to parents!

I think we need to transform the way children have fun back to how it used to be. My Dad always says that if he “had a stick and a rock, he would be happy.” He always says that kids now-a-days do not have to use their imagination because basically anything that people think anymore, can happen.

I long for the days that I would run around outside with my friends and make the things we found outside into whatever we wanted. We did not need any special toys to have fun, we would just use our imagination and be anyone we wanted to be and do anything we wanted to do. I used to scare my parents when I tried to jump off random things because I said I could fly. Maybe I did watch a couple too many Disney movies….

We all need to be treated as people, not buyers. I cannot say that we should all ban up together and take down the industry, because in all honestly that could take years and maybe never happen. But there are little things that we can all do to help it along.

The main thing, which I just learned, is to just be cognoscente of what is going on around you. Realize what kind of ads are being shown to children and see if it could be negative at all. Kids cannot see right from wrong at a young age, so as parents, siblings and friends, etc we all need to help teach them. I think that I was really lucky on how I was raised. My Mother said “No” a lot to things I wanted and to things I thought I needed. Now I see how smart she was and that she was right that I did not need these trivial things I wanted.  

I would like to end on a verse from the Bible that I heard in Church this morning. It was actually very perfect and fitting to this.

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2.

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