Commercialized Culture: Keep It Away From My Kid

A parent tries to keep her kid away from commercialized culture. Is this a good idea?

I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that we don’t have cable. We have a TV and Netflix, but no cable. Even though I totally caved on the whole “my child will not watch television, ever” thing, I’m glad that when she does watch it she’s not exposed to commercials. And here’s why: Recently, she was watching a show at my mom’s house (where there is cable) when a commercial came on for My Little Pony (and not the My Little Pony of my day, but a glamorized version with 12 billion accessories). Coraline immediately started whining “I want a My Little Pony!” In that moment it was so clear how disgustingly effective and exploitive — not to mention unfair to parents — child-targeted marketing is. And how glad I am that it doesn’t come into my house.

Even without cable, we are not immune to commercialized culture here. Coraline does watch shows like Dora and Diego and she has little friends who have introduced her to Cinderella and Hello Kitty and Spiderman. There are Strawberry Shortcake bandaids in the medicine cabinet, and she has been the proud owner of Dora sippy cups. For a long time I tried to keep all commercialized items out of the house, but small items snuck their way into the mix one way or another. She still isn’t allowed to wear clothes that have television characters or logos on them. I know this isn’t a big deal for some parents, but I see this obsession with characters and brands as a killer of creativity. Again, case in point: Last week we hung up two mailboxes in our dining room. It was an idea I’d gotten from the blog Creative Childhood (more on Sonya Shoptaugh in coming weeks!). We sat down on the floor with paper and glue and markers and stickers to decorate our mailboxes, and as I considered how best to adorn my name with sparkles Coraline just started covering every inch of hers with Disney princess stickers (I don’t even know where they came from). She had tons of options — colorful, messy, do-it-you-own-way options — and she just wanted to stick Snow White and Cinderella’s face all over her mailbox. You see where I’m coming from?

This issue of commercialized culture and kids is such a big one that there’s a whole organization dedicated to the issue, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood. Their Web site is full of information and ideas, and worth a look. I’m curious to know how many other families think about this issue. Is it on your radar but you let certain things slide, like me? Or are you staunchly anti-commercialism? Or are you totally cool with it all? Let me know, and tell me why!

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