‘Mommy, I Want That SpongeBob Macaroni and Cheese!’
A slew of books have hit the shelves as researchers try to alert and advise parents on how to counter the increasing influence marketers have on kids.

Born to Buy: The Commercialized Child and the New Consumer Culture (Scribner, 2004), researcher Juliet Schor looks at the methods marketers use to reel in kids as customers. Like Alissa Quart’s Branded: The Buying and Selling of Teenagers (Perseus, 2003) and Susan Linn’s Consuming Kids: The Hostile Takeover of Childhood (New Press, 2004), Born to Buy goes into exhaustive, and alarming, detail on how marketers hook kids on their brands at increasingly younger ages.
She also tells you how to fight back.

While other authors focus on specific aspects of marketing – the evils of too much TV, for example – Schor takes on children’s relationships with consumer culture as a whole. She and other researchers questioned more than 300 kids in their early teens to see how consumer culture affected their well-being.

Not surprisingly, Schor and her colleagues found that commercialization is bad for kids’ health. Children’s high involvement in consumer culture can cause depression, low self-esteem, and psychosomatic illnesses.

Fortunately, a close, trusting and caring relationship between parents and kids counteracts the marketing takeover of childhood, says Schor, a well-known Boston College sociologist who researches work/life, consumerism and leisure issues. Her advice to parents: Just like bringing back the tradition of the family sit-down meal, restricting TV and teaching kids to be fiscally smart not only deprograms them from the marketer’s snare, but also brings families closer together.

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