Our Children, Their Market Sector

Through various media, such as movies and TV programs, we have become conscious to the fact that our children are being directly marketed to by large corporations with huge budgets. One of the large problems is the pervasiveness of advertising that bombards our children with messages that we do not support or undermines our values. While we are aware of companies like McDonalds and WalMart targeting our kids, we rarely expect to see it in our school systems. However, as any parent can attest, the advertising and the acceptance of advertising by schools, teachers, and parents has become outrageous.

Gone are the days when just local businesses supported a football or basketball team. Now we are bombarded with magazine subscription requests, cookie dough clubs, and other corporately organized fund raising. I, like many others, support the activity of fund raising by kids for a field trip or new band uniforms, however, modern fund raising has taken on a whole new marketing sector by enlisting children to encourage others to buy, buy, buy. Schools hang large banners with logos, distribute logoed collection jars, and host various other forms of subconscious advertising. Children are not just learning in schools, but becoming more accepting of marketing ploys from an early age. According to a recent article on Commercial Alert, the impact of all this marketing has demonstrated that “higher materialistic values are related to factors such as lower self-esteem, chronic physical symptoms, and higher rates of anxiety, depression and psychological distress” (http://www.commercialalert.org/issues/education/k12-schools/school-children-thrown-overboard-into-commercial-sea).

The toll of marketing doesn’t stop there. Kids are encouraged to “go green” and often with products that aren’t living up to the name. Through corporate sponsorships, corporations are gaining access to students, according to The International Encyclopedia of Environmental Politics:
“…through the development and distribution of ‘educational’ material to schools. The potential to shape environmental perceptions and improve corporate images at the same time attracts many customers to the firms designing educational materials for corporations. These materials inevitably give a corporate view of environmental problems and portray activities such as clear cutting forests, coal mining and nuclear power as environmentally friendly.”

As more funding is funneled into our public schools, we can expect to see more information passed to our children that include misinformation about fossil fuels and the use of natural resources. Isn’t the ultimate case of greenwashing when the children are involved?

- Gina Mason

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