Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Parents Seek Antidote to a Dvertising Their Concern: Kids `Malled' by Marketing

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Parents Seek Antidote to a Dvertising Their Concern: Kids `Malled' by Marketing

Article excerpt

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Nancy Darr, a mother of three young children, was wrestling with a problem common to many American parents: How do I protect my children from the onslaught of advertising?

Shut off the television, she decided.

"I felt really guilty at first, because all the other kids are really into this," Darr says. "But we made it a more gradual process. We didn't do it cold turkey. It took a few months to find out my guilt was unfounded. And we knew it was better for [them] in the long run."

Teletubbies. Beanie Babies. Care Bears. Barney. Star Wars. Even if you don't have elementary school-age children, you know the shows and their gotta-have-it merchandising tie-ins, from back-to-school supplies to clothing to action figures.

Faced with increasingly sophisticated advertising techniques aimed directly at their children, many parents, teachers and professionals say it's time to direct America away from its obsession with shopping and consuming.

In a recent survey sponsored by the non-profit Center for a New American Dream, nearly four of five parents said marketing puts pressure on kids to buy things too expensive or bad or unnecessary for them. Nearly 75 percent said marketing to kids is bad for both their kids' values and world view.

Almost half of the parents admitted their kids would rather go to a shopping mall than hiking in the woods.

Of course, advertising aimed at children has been around for decades -- in magazines, on TV, at the movies, plastered on the windows of toy stores. But statistics indicate it's more pervasive than ever, especially on TV.

According to an article published in the Arts Education Policy Review, more than $2 billion is spent annually on all forms of advertising directed at children, more than 20 times the amount spent 10 years ago.

American Demographics magazine reports that children "influenced" about $5 billion worth of purchases their parents made in the 1960s. That figure rose to $50 billion in 1984; it went to $188 billion in 1997. It's estimated that, by 2000, it will reach nearly $300 billion.

TV remains the greatest market for children's advertising. Once confined to Saturday morning cartoons and afterschool specials, children's programming -- and advertising -- may now be seen on several 24-hour children's networks.

Nielsen Media Research has reported elementary school-age children on average watch up to seven hours of TV per day; Business Week recently estimated the average child sees 20,000 to 40,000 commercials each year.

"Advertising permeates our lives, from beginning to end," says Carole Stoller, who has been teaching kindergarten at Queen Palmer Elementary School for 26 years. "It seems they're hitting an age group too young to understand what's going on, how their desires are being manipulated. …

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