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 @ www.dadsanddaughters.com.