Are Kids Now Mini Adults in a Commercial World?

Are children now mini adults in a commercial world?  Sheena Horgan, ethics & youth marketing specialist discusses the issue of the commercialisation of childhood.

We live in a very commercial and consumerist society, heavily influenced by US and UK media and cultures. And we’re tech proficient so the world is an accessible and smaller place.  All of this has an impact on Irish childhood.

In some cases for the better.  And sometimes for the worse.

As a society we’re increasingly treating our children as mini adults. The line between adult and kids brands is blurred.  And our children watch TV, listen to music and use technology, much of which was designed for adults.

I don’t apportion blame because we all need to take collective responsibility. So this month we’re looking at what we can do, as parents, to curtail the excessive commercialisation of our children’s PRECIOUS childhood:

#1. Help our kids to develop the necessary lifeskills to manage the modern world.

Helping them to recognise marketing and to question it is important if we want our kids to be able to discern between what they really need and want, as opposed to what a brand is trying to persuade them they need and want.

#2. Check the websites our kids access and talking to them about the games

Discussing the websites your children visit regularly as well as the subtle branding and the sponsored content will help them to be media literate online too – because whilst many children identify an ad on traditional media like TV and print, online marketing can be much more implicit.  And especially, you can help your kids to understand the importance of NOT sharing their or their friend’s details online.

#3. Question how age appropriate the TV and music our kids consume is. 

We need to think about the role models our children admire and how appropriate we really think they are.

Related: Where do we draw the line on adult brands crossing over to kids’ clothing?

#4. Ask if school is becoming commercialised?

And in the absence of guidelines many brands and commercial organisations run programmes in schools.  If your children’s school is engaging with a brand in a way that you don’t think is suitable, then let us know.  And if your school would like some draft guidelines to help them please contact me, as I have some done that can be used.

#5. And most importantly where you’re concerned, act.

It’s our duty as parents to protect our children’s childhood and to voice concern on their behalf.

Children may be consumers but they are vulnerable consumers and we need to remind business and brands of this. Rarely will industry, the media or politicans act unprompted, so parents’ opinions need to be heard to count:-

  • So if you’ve an issue with something in a shop – maybe the clothes are ‘too sexy’ or the imagery too adult – then let the shop know.  And contact Retail Ireland, tel (01) 6051558 and email [email protected].
  • If there’s advertising at a bus stop, in a paper or magazine or on telly, that you’re uncomfortable about contact The Advertising Standards Authority Ireland (ASAI)
  • If it’s a TV ad then you can also contact the Broadcast Authority of Ireland (BAI).  Its code with regard to children states what is and is not acceptable.
  • And let us know too. We’ll collate parents’ concerns and bring them to the appropriate attention too.

Sheena Horgan is a youth & ethics specialist and journalist. 

Have you got any thoughts on the topic of kids being mini adults? Share them in the comments below

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