While driving back from Chicago, I listened intently to a few NPR stories. This is after I listened to the all news network from Chicago for the first 4 hours of the trip and tried to keep up with the baseball trades taking before Monday’s deadline on ESPN Radio. I’d zoned out somewhere near the Illinois/Kentucky border after having my picture taken with Superman in Metropolis… (I’ll post it down at the bottom). I don’t listen to All Things Considered as much as I did those last years in New York or as much as I did in Savannah. But one of the stories on Monday intrigued me:
For Toddlers, a World Laden with Advertising, NPR – All Things Considered, July 31, 2006
I was somewhat perplexed as I listened to the story. BTW, there is a link to the audio version of this story on the page. As the report unfolded, it sounded as though the problem was just being brought to light, that the issue was a new concern for parents with very young children. I kept waiting for someone to make the point that this is not really a “new” phenomenon. Aggressive marketing when I was younger led to a collection of toys between my brother and I throughout childhood that included Smurfs, MASK, The Transformers, Voltron, He-Man, Sesame Street… you get the picture. The toys were not the only things marketed to us. Breakfast cereals, bed sheet sets, Halloween costumes, canned foods… all of these things were peddled to us in the form of half hour “commercials” as entertainment aimed at children. (Oh yeah, I can’t leave out the green slime that Nickelodeon sold in stores thanks to You Can’t Do That on Television and Double Dare).
Those that claim that it was different in the good old days are quick to forget the marketing tactics of Dick Tracy, The Shadow, Howdy Doody, Roy Rogers, Batman. BTW – click here to see who they’ve gotten to play the Joker in the next Batman movie! Movies, radio and television have influenced us to buy lunch boxes, decoder rings and listen intently from week to week since their marketing potential was realized. With the growth of new media, there may be additional outlets for young people to get locked into these trances, but all forms of communication have long held a grip on the American conscience and its consuming ways.
The piece asked if parents were concerned and if they would be interested in changing marketing junk food as a way to measure their support of additional limitations on other forms of marketing to children. It should not be surprising that many parents did not want to change the system. It will and should be a concern about what children are exposed to at a young age. However, it should be the responsibility of the parent to monitor what their children watch on television. Based on the survey of parents quoted at the end of the audio file, most of them seem to agree with that point. Maybe they want to relive their childhood every once in a while themselves.
Before I forget, here’s a picture of me and one of the most popular icons in American history.
I’m the guy on the left. 🙂