Waking up the Kids: Buy Me That!

buy me that 2

When I was a kid we didn’t have all day long TV programs for kids. We waited patiently for Saturday so we could watch cartoons. Kids can watch all day, everyday now. They get way too much television. With that they get way too many commercials. Commercials that convince them that their lives will be incomplete without a certain sugar laden breakfast cereal or incredibly awesome action figure with high tech capabilities that require an endless supply of batteries or ugly doll with big head, disproportionately small body and questionable attire.

When we were kids we were simply told “no”. No meant no and that was that. Or there were the few much envied kids in the class whose parents never said no and their lives were complete bliss. We could never reach that unattainable nirvana that they had. Parents that never said no.  But when you have your own kids you realize that it was the parents who had it harder than us. I do feel they could have made it easier for themselves though if they had sat us down and taught us how big companies count on the gullibility of the (dumb) consumer. If our parents had challenged us to be smarter than the advertising professionals I think we would have been more open to accepting “no I am not buying that for you”.  At least that is what I think now that I have to deal with my own kids.

I am a big fan of Neflix.  No commercials and there are shows that I have okayed for my kids to watch that I don’t have to worry about being age inappropriate. Like the incredibly dumbed down or incredibly crass, even bordering on lewd shows I see on regular channels. Of course sometimes they do watch YTV, so they do have exposure to the wonderful world of advertising and all the material wonders that can cause parents to go bankrupt.

I too just give the “no means no”, occasionally treats are allowed on birthdays and special occasions. But I didn’t want my kids to feel the way I did when my parents said no and I saw dozens of other kids with parents that said yes.  I felt like I was a poor immigrant, because something being too expensive and a waste of money was the (if any) excuse given. Yes I want my kids to be tough to face the world tomorrow but if there is an explanation I want to give it to them so they can understand the world around them.

I started telling them how big companies hire smart people to fool kids into buying things they don’t need. They fool kids into pestering parents to a point of madness and the parents finally give in. So these companies win the game all the time because they outsmart the kids. The kids aren’t smart enough to realize they are being duped. This reasoning was incredibly more effective than what we got as kids. My kids understood why they did not need everything they saw on commercials or everything their friends had.

Today I took this to an even higher level. I searched for videos on YouTube that explained advertising tricks. I was once watching a documentary on the music industry and my girls sat down with me. I thought they would run away bored after a few minutes, they didn’t. They absorbed it with interest and now discuss what songs are not worth listening to and which are, they recognize the absurdity that some singers indulge in and understand how this is demeaning and something that should not be respected or idolized.

Anyways I was not expecting to find videos that were actually made for kids about the trap of commercials. But I found a series of them. They were really good, the girls were so engaged they couldn’t stop discussing and asking questions. It kind of did all the work for me, they started talking about commercials they saw and how they no longer wanted that product now that they realized how they were being fooled into wanting to buy things they didn’t need.

Society is becoming one big “I want this-I need this-I have to have this-look at this latest thing that I bought and have thus achieved a level of superiority” self-absorbed mess. It is our duty to make sure we are able to reverse this by teaching our kids to read between the lines, question things and make their own informed decisions rather than have the mainstream media do it for them.  We need to make sure our kids are wide awake on all levels. The thing is it is easier to keep them awake by teaching them at a young age than it is to wake them up when they are older.

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