Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Dads & Moms & Marketing

I attended an inspiring evening at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis last night—about 30 parents gathered with Twin Cities Public TV producer Daniel Bergin to discuss media, media literacy, and our kids. The conversation kept coming back to marketing—for example, how most US children’s TV programs and websites are so tightly tied to retailers selling toys and food (far too much of both being junk).
Many of us struggle to strike the “right” balance for how much time our kids spend in front of a screen. There’s particular concern for daughters, who are hammered SO hard and SO often (on screen and off) with the dangerous message that their primary value resides in their external appearance (the technical term for this phenomenon is “bigotry”) and how “sexy” they act.
The conversation among this very diverse team of parents was inspiring and filled with practical ideas, like the “no pressure” birthday party—invitations say “your child is not expected to bring a present, and will not be coming home with gifts (aka swag).”
Yet I was also reminded how useful it is to see marketing itself as an organizing principle for analyzing and managing our children’s media consumption. After all, the drive to sell stuff is what motivates and pays for most children’s media. So, look at media (our kids’ and our own) through the critical lens of “how is marketing—especially selling us stuff we otherwise wouldn’t want or need—playing out in this situation?” That approach will give you lots of insight…and open up new possibilities for healthy responses to the ubiquity of media in the lives of our culture and families.
The best places to go for help with this are the Campaign for Commercial Free Childhood and the National Institute on Media and the Family, both of which have extensive information and resources on their sites.Thank you Daniel and the Walker for bringing us together!
Learn more @


kcsphil said...

Whenever I talk to my fellow parents about kids tv and marketing, the number one topic is how to limit it. Being in my later 30's, I answer the same way my folks did when my brother and were kids - I turn off the TV for most of the day, and encourage my kids to read, invite them to go outside and throw a ball or ride bikes, and get out the Scrabble board after dinner. Sure, as a family, we watch a few shows a week - Dancing with the Stars is a favorite. But we tell them No fairly regularly.

As a result, both daughters are voracious readers. When Harry Potter 6 came out, I took my older daughter (just 11 at the time) to the local Border's for the after midnight rollout as a late birthday present. Not only did she love the party, but she was #210 to get the book. She had it read in 1 1/2 days, pausing only to eat and go to summer day camp. She then reread it twice more that summer. Harry Potter 7 received like treatment. Neither she nor her younger sister is ever without a book, and their library cards are more worn then mine.

My point is simply this - if parents make decisions, enforce rules, and model good behavior, their kids will respond. Sure, it's physically demanding and emotionally draining, but why should we work just as hard to raise our kids as we do to meet our bosses deadlines?

Tiffini Flynn Forslund said...

Dear Joe,
I am excited about your work and glad I've been exposed to your website. Another positive that came out of the Media Literacy session with Daniel Bergin.

Many more Dad's are taking active roles in their children's lives and society needs to encourage, portray and change its attitudes.

We need to realize that as men and women we have different parenting styles and both are important to rearing a child. It is important for fathers to realize the life long impact they have on a their son or daughter.

I look forward to the day that a group of mom's can gather and chat about the great influence their husbands are giving the children or how what a great help they are to everyday life of the family household!

Keep up the great work!


Tiffini Flynn Forslund said...

I guess I did not really stay along the lines of marketing, however I do recall as a child wanting the ceramic wheel so bad - it was all I wanted and dreamed about for Christmas. When I actually received it - the greatest dissappointment ever.....

I learned more than ever about marketing and advertising that third grade year.