Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Commercialism Conundrum

You may have gathered by now, from two posts dealing with marketing and specifically marketing to kids, that it's one of my biggest concerns as a parent and pet peeves as a citizen.

I try to be realistic.  I'm raising kids in the United States of America of the 21st century; there is just no way to keep them from unhealthy foods, media, advertising, and commercialism.  And it wouldn't be healthy or fair for them if I did keep them from learning about these things.  They are, after all, 21st-century Americans and will require at least a little fodder for small-talk.

I'm constantly asking myself what I would/should/could compromise on, and just how much bending constitutes being flexible and realistic versus rolling over, belly-up, saying "fine!  Have your way with them!  I just want a nap!"

I had one such moment at the pediatrician's office this past week.  What happened is such a small problem, but the potential fix is also so small and would make me feel so. much. better. One less place to worry about my child being primed as a target for advertising?  What a load off!  Not to mention making it easier to adhere to some of the very suggestions about food and media that pediatricians are making to all of us parents!

So, here it is, the letter I've written to the big pediatric practice in town:

Dear [Person I Really Hope Doesn't Toss This Letter Before Reading it...],

I brought my two-month-old for his well-baby visit today with my 2.5-year-old in tow. At the end of the visit, my older son was offered a sticker.  The woman giving him the sticker said “boy” (to herself) while determining my son’s options for stickers and then gave him the options of Elmo or Spiderman.  I wanted to express my concern over two aspects of this occurrence. 

First, that these stickers are considered gender-specific.  Why can my son not choose from certain stickers because he is a boy? He didn’t really care what was on the sticker – only that it was sticky!

Second, I am bothered that he only had licensed characters to choose from – and that licensed characters were an option at all. Familiarizing kids with these characters (my son is only familiar with them through marketing, toys, and books that he sees elsewhere – we don’t watch television) opens them up to so much marketing – and it’s mostly marketing of things that are not good for them like junk food and toys that inhibit imaginative play!

This is such a simple and relatively small thing, but it is also a very simple fix. Just as I hope the young girls in the practice got to take home the small cars my son once did, I want my son to have the option of choosing a shiny pink sticker if that’s what he wants. And stickers with butterflies, dinosaurs, geometric designs, etc are just as enticing as Elmo, Spiderman, Dora, Shrek, or any of the other numerous licensed characters out there also selling toys, books, backpacks, bedding, and junk food.

Also, I hope this policy will be extended to any toys, books, band-aids and anything else that is distributed to kids in your practice. They are so bombarded with marketing and expectations of them based on their gender – and from such a young age! Please make [your practice] a marketing-free zone for our kids!

["That" Mom]

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