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Home > Features > Action > Commerce > Kids and Commercialism

GreenSense- Special Edition

Kids and Commercialism

Advertisers and marketers now spend over $2 billion each year on advertising to children. That's more than 20 times what they spent 10 years ago. These billions are spent each year on psychological studies and advertising designed to promote explicitly antisocial values.

Why? It's simple: They assume that greedy, impatient, materialistic kids (and the adults they grow up to be) will buy more "product". This onslaught is changing the very nature of our society, for the worse. As parents, we need to know how to deal with this, both in our households and in the public arena, or face the consequences.

Did you know there are now a wide variety of seminars designed specifically to help corporations market to kids? At the typical seminar, you'll find presentations on how to "brand" (their terminology, not ours) kids as young as six months old. They're after your kids and they're playing for keeps!

Consider this:

  • When Consumers Union collected and evaluated examples of Corporate-sponsored academic materials (used in public schools to teach your kids), it found that 80 percent contained biased or incomplete information, and promoted a viewpoint that favored consumption of the sponsor's product or service or otherwise favored the company and its economic agenda.

  • In the late 1970s, the staff of the FTC proposed restrictions on advertising aimed at young children on the theory that such advertising is inherently unfair. Congress responded by passing the Federal Trade Commission Improvement Act of 1980, which among other things, prohibited the commission form promulgating "any rule [asserting] that such advertising constitutes an unfair act or practice."

    Do your kids watch Channel One in school?

  • A 1998 study by Professor Alex Molnar, director of the University of Wisconsin's Center for the Analysis of Commercialism in Education, and Max Sawicky, an economist with the Economic Policy Institute, found that taxpayers in the U.S. pay $1.8 billion dollars per year for the class time lost to Channel One.

Here's more...


Study: Public TV More Corporate, Less Public Than Ever - An independent academic study of news and public affairs programming on PBS stations found that corporate and Wall Street sources outweighed all others to the point of neglecting many of the groups in society that the public television was intended to serve.

The Trouble With Teletubbies - An in-depth look at how Public Television has responded to the threat of funding cuts by courting corporate interests. Chilling. [40k]

ZapMe! - coerces children to watch advertisements in school. ZapMe! donates computers to schools, which deliver corporate ads to children via the ZapMe! web browser. Schoolchildren cannot do a simple web search on the ZapMe! browsers without being compelled to watch ads.

Furthermore, ZapMe! spies on children's web browsing and transmits that information to advertisers and marketers, who use it to refine their sales pitches. Update (11/17/01): Following widespread outrage from parents and citizens, the ZapMe! Corp. is exiting the education "business."

Here's what you can do...

  • Read and sign Watch Out for Children - An open letter to advertisers that says: "You are teaching our children values that are antithetical to the values we are trying to teach our children. You must stop." Have a look at the list of original and additional signatories. You can sign it too.

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  • Visit the "un-TV" guide - Give serious consideration to reducing or eliminating television from your house. Find out why and how here.
  • Visit the TV Turnoff Network for more tips and lots of research on the effects of television on such things as kids' aggression, violence, weight, health, body image, desire for toys, and more.

  • DRAFT MODEL SCHOOL BOARD POLICY - Here's a model you can use to guide your local school board.

  • DRAFT MODEL STATE LEGISLATION - Use this as a model to guide your state legislature.

  • Contact your representatives. Tell them you want the Federal Trade Commission Improvement Act of 1980 repealed.

  • Take Action! - Concrete suggestions for simple but powerful things you can do, along with a variety of resources, including a sample survey on commercialism, a sample press release, a sample resolution against commercialism in schools, a sample letter to the editor and other organizations to contact for information. To get you inspired, the page includes some examples of what people around the country have been able to accomplish.

    One last thought...Who does all this advertising? You can bet it's not small, locally-owned businesses. It's done by large corporations. And they're hard to stop because of their size and legal advantages. Taking action to control corporations would automatically put us in a much better position to address advertising abuses. Have a look at our Corporate Spoilers page to learn more!







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