May 6, 2004

CONSUMING KIDS - A REVIEW

CONSUMING KIDS: The Hostile Takeover of Childhood
by Susan Linn Ed.D.
Instructor in Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School and
Associate Director of the Media Center at Judge Baker Children's Center, Boston, Mass.
The New Press, 2004 US$24.95 ISBN 1-56584-783-0

"But Mommy, I want it!" If you have kids - or have ever been in a supermarket - you are no doubt familiar with this kind of wheedling. Last year, advertisers spent US$15 Billion promoting it. Nagging, as classified by marketing research, comes in two flavors: persistence nagging (children repeatedly and incessantly badger their parents until they give in), and the much more effective importance nagging (children offer a "reason" why they must have a particular product - a reason included in the advertising, of course). This is just one of the alarming revelations that Susan Linn offers in her book, CONSUMING KIDS.

We get an unsparing look at the demographics advertisers call the "kid market". In chapters such as "Branded Babies: from Cradle to Consumer", Linn analyzes this growing phenomenon. She goes undercover at a marketing conference, offering an inside look at how some psychologists use the latest child development theories to teach kids how to better manipulate their parents. She goes online to discover how sex and alcohol are marketed to teens on the Internet. And she challenges the mythic bubble about the supposed educational effect of Baby Mozart and Baby Einstein videos, targeted at what advertisers call an "underserved population". Children, that is, who haven't yet reached their first birthday.

The reader is taken on a compelling journey through the underside of an out-of-control industry that's manipulating North American children into unhealthy eating habits and sedentary pastimes, stifling their creativity in the process. Linn offers real-life stories, development theory, and even lets marketing experts weigh in on their work, as she offers alternatives to the selling-out of today's child. This book is a must read for parents, educators and media scholars alike.

Reviewed by: Rose Anne Dyson, Ed.D.
Chairperson, C-CAVE
Author of MIND ABUSE: Media Violence In An Information Age
Co-author of MEDIA, SEX, VIOLENCE and DRUGS in the GLOBAL VILLAGE and Terrorism, Globalization & Mass Communication