Friday, March 06, 2009

Barbara Curtis rocks....

I am lucky that I actually KNOW this person.
I've had LUNCH with her...(lucky me, I know..)
You gotta read this. Here is her current column for the Purcellville Gazette:

Consumer-Proof Your Kids

Someone's out to get your teenagers - and they mean business. A special PBS Frontline report named them "The Merchants of Cool" in their in-depth look at the aggressive marketing used to control how American teens spend their money.At 33 million strong, today's generation of American teens represents the "hottest" consumer demographic ever, with far more spending power than their Boomer parents had - last year topping $100 billion.

If you missed "The Merchants of Cool," you can catch the complete 53-minute show here along with a host of other chilling insights into how the media and big corporations target our teens by encouraging and selling to the weakest parts of their character.

Okay, so what's a parent - who needs more than a slingshot to battle the giants - to do?
You can start by blocking MTV. Or sitting down and watching it with your teens to see what's really going on.

You can counter the pressure of consumerism by helping your teens understand how susceptible we all are to advertising. Take product placement, for instance, which really took off in 1982 when the movie E.T. portrayed an irresistible little alien following a trail of Reese's Pieces. Sales for the candy shot up immediately. Now it's a rare film that doesn't add cash to its coffers with product placement contracts for everything from Huggies to Starbucks to DeLorean dream cars. Rates are structured depending on how the product appears. A can of soda on a table might cost the company a certain amount, but if Tom Cruise picks it up and opens it, it costs a whole lot more. And if he actually brings it to his lips - well, you can imagine!

The more our kids know about the inner workings of the advertising world, the less susceptible they will be to such subliminal manipulation.

Here's a family discussion starter:

When it comes to TV: What is the product being sold? Who is the customer?

Your teen probably thinks as she watches TV that she's the customer, and that the ads she watches display the products being sold.

Not so! For television networks, the customers they serve are the advertisers. The product being sold is the viewer.

That's why the cost for a commercial can vary from $19 for a 30 second daytime spot on a local cable channel to $2,000,000 for the same amount of time during the Super Bowl, which attracts the largest television audience every year. The price paid by customer/advertiser is based on the number of viewers during that time slot - the same way we buy meat by the pound.
Encourage your kids to look at commercials with a critical eye, identifying what factors underlie the message: guilt, greed, manipulation, fear, flattery, status-seeking

And one final thought: Teens cannot learn to control their impulses for more, more, more if we say yes, yes, yes. Even if you have the money -or borrowing power - to buy your child everything he wants, it's really not the loving thing to do.

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