Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Are your children over exposed to Advertising and missing their childhood?

I just watched a really interesting program on the ABC about The Consumerism of Childhood.. .

There were many experts interviewed explaining the dangers of the dangerous amount of advertising and manipulative marketing our children are exposed to from increasingly young ages. TV is obviously one of the biggest culprits but in this rapidly advancing technological world – all other manner of communication such as phones/ instant messaging/ chat rooms/ sadly schools & most disturbingly sly observations of children ‘in action’ with their friends that you are not even aware of, let alone have given permission for – all aimed at targeting our kids ever more closely so that what is being pushed on them is harder and harder to resist. Marketers are even conducting MRI”S of kids watching various ads to see what parts of the brain light up the most and therefore do more of that. Shocking I know!

In many ways it is a sad reflection society has come to this and clearly the Industry self regulating itself is not sufficient. The only way to keep tabs on how much your children are exposed to this media manipulation is by creating boundaries for you kids in the relevant areas and keeping the lines of communication open. Since our kids were very young we have talked about how ads exaggerate if not flat out lie about what their product or service can do, so they have a very healthy level of scepticism when it comes to advertising.

They are still not immune of course to the lure of wanting some latest and invariably expensive gadget – they’re only human and we sometimes let them purchase these things – within reason though.

We can all get a bit slack about the amount of hours that our children are having screen time be it TV or the Computer. I notice this happens in our family in Winter time, when it’s cold and the kids just want to curl up on the couch and VEG out. Just how much they are Vegging out is becoming increasingly clear and increasingly alarming. Kids impressionable young brains can literally be wired in the wrong ways affecting IQ; impulse control; anti social behaviour and so on. The statistic in numerous areas such as weight problems/ diabetes & Mental Illness problems are rapidly on the rise.

It can be hard to put limits on things that all your children’s friend’s supposedly have constant access too, and it requires having a strong resolve. I have wavered a few times with my 10 yo daughter and 7 yo son in this area in the past – but have always regretted it. Quite a while ago my husband and I banned TV in the Mornings, which although difficult at first –with a lot of complaining, this soon completely disappeared. I subsequently took I to the next step and have curtailed their watching of programs after school.

Because I work form home this has meant a big commitment from me to not work during the hours of say 3 till 8pm so that I can keep the kids minds active and engaged in more interesting ways. This may be playing hangman and doing a puzzle or putting together a letter to Gran and Gramps with some recent digital photos to send via good old fashioned snail mail. The difference in ‘quality’ communication and learning and engagement with each other increased markedly when we did this – I wish I’d done it sooner!! There’s no point admonishing yourself about when you put the foot down about too much TV and Computer time - it’s simply better late than never.

If you would like to read more on this topic you might like to read How to Organize TV/Computer time for your Kids.

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