TV and cable commercials have a powerful impact on how we perceive the world and on what we perceive that we need to “survive” and “thrive.” The reality is that your children do not need most of the items advertised in commercials, newspapers and magazines. They need love, food, shelter, encouragement, boundaries, some clothing and some shoes. Nearly everything else is not a necessity. However, commercials send a very pervasive message to your children, such as:
- To be popular you must wear expensive designer clothing. This pressure increases as your child gets older, so start early teaching them some important lessons about quality and how to look “cool” without spending $125 on a pair of designer jeans. Christian parents owe it to their children to help them learn this lesson. Trust me, I know. I gave in to this pressure on occasion because of my fear that my children would be teased. As soon as this child had the ability to get a credit card, she maxed it out and regrets that to this day. That was a tough lesson for her and for me.
- New items are higher quality than gently used items. Are they really? Every time I shop at my local Goodwill shop, I find expensive designer items for a fraction of the cost – and they have no holes, stains or apparent wear and tear. So why do we feel the pressure to buy new when we can get what we want used if we are patient? Plus, in the process, we teach our children to reuse, repurpose and recycle gently used items. We humans — particularly Americans — are stressing our planet to the point of global warming. Help your child understand these valuable concepts by shopping together at used stores to teach them how to reduce their carbon footprint.
- To be loved, I must look like one of the women in magazines, such as Glamour and Vogue. These and other magazines define beauty for our daughters. The models often starve themselves to be as thin as the photographers and brand advertisers want. Add to this that they always wear lots of makeup and the photos are altered to remove all imperfections! Your daughter’s self-esteem is at stake. Don’t allow her to start reading them when she is 8, 10, 13 or 15! Help her develop a sense of self separate from the influence of commercial or external definitions of beauty.
One of my favorite resources to support the goal to protect your child’s innocence and ideas to help your children navigate the mixed and sexual messages of the world is the “Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood,” or ccfc.com. The site will provide you with many challenges to assumptions about parenting that you take for granted.
- The “Resources” section contains useful and helpful information that gives parents a lot of food for thought about how they are raising their children in this media- and sales-driven society.
- The organization asks its followers to take action by contacting manufacturers who create and market products that over-emphasize technology or market to children. For example, as of Dec. 28, they are asking parents to contact Fisher Price regarding the Apple® iPad™ bouncy seat for infants, shut down happymeal.com and ask corporations to stop making false claims regarding apps for babies.
- Each year, the CCFC invites parents and educators to vote for the worst toy in terms of its impact on children and childhood. The most negative toy of the year earns the TOADY (Toys Oppressive And Destructive to Young children) award, which is not a good publicity statement for the brand. In 2013, the TOADY went to the iPotty by CTA Digital. The award for 2012 went to the Fisher Price Laugh & Learn Apptivity Monkey.
- Coming in May, the organization is asking parents and their children to turn off all devices during the “Device Free” campaign week to encourage discussion, personal interaction, imagination and active play.
Because of the many resources, it is a great site to consult when deciding which technological toys and devices are right for your child and when. The best rule of thumb for parents to keep in mind is whether the device is a necessity and how the device will negatively impact emotional, social and/or physical development.