I spent last weekend at a conference full of energetic and committed people working to protect children from corporate marketing practices that harm children’s health and well-being for profit. It was the 8th international Consuming Kids Summit in Boston.
I couldn’t go to every session, alas, so here are a few proposals from some of the speakers for what you can do. I’m hoping that others who were there will add their own key takeaways in the comments!
Message: “Once I knew a certain amount” about how a child’s mind works, “it became immoral” to advertise to children.
Proposal: As people learned about the harm from smoking, it became hard for the agencies that worked with tobacco clients to recruit the best talent. So educate students in advertising schools about the immorality of advertising to children. This will make advertising to children taboo, like tobacco advertising, and agencies will just stop because they won’t be able to hire the most creative people.
Lenore Skenazy, Free Range Kids
Message: Children, just like adults, respond positively when we let them know we believe in them.
Proposal: Give your children the freedom to develop a sense of independence and confidence in themselves. Let them know you believe in them by letting go of the fear and hyper-supervision.
Dr. Diane Levin, professor of Education at Wheelock College
Message: The research is clear that violent media harms children. Even if they don’t kill someone after playing violent video games, that isn’t evidence that violent media isn’t causing harm.
Proposal: Demand that corporations that profit from marketing violence to children pay for the societal costs.
Dr. Michael Rich – also know as “The Mediatrician” – of the Center on Media and Child Health at Children’s Hospital, Boston
Message: Since the 1950s, the average CQ – creativity quotient – has gone down even while the IQ has gone up. A brain that is distracted by media entertainment doesn’t have the chance to get bored, which is where creative ideas happen.
Proposal: Take a digital sabbath each week.
Dr. Sharon Maxwell, clinical psychologist
Message: Marketers teach children that desires must be fulfilled, pushing them to seek pleasure at the expense of joy.
Proposal: Ask your children, “Who are you? Who gets to decide?” Make sure they have time for the silence they need for reflection. “Please value silence,” she says.
Josh Golin, associate director of Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood
Message: Advertisers take advantage of the authority of schools as a marketing tool to target children, but the amount of money schools get as a result is often negligible. It’s not worth it.
Proposal: Demand that school officials provide revenue numbers from advertising in terms of annual revenue, per pupil revenue and as a percentage of the total budget. And then don’t be surprised if selling kids to marketers brings in just .03 percent of the budget.
Also, tell schools that want to advertise on school buses that they open themselves up to a First Amendment lawsuit if they try to limit the kinds of advertising they will accept, and may end up with this on the side of the school bus:
Makani Themba, executive director at The Praxis Project
Message: Industry funds PR campaigns to encourage people to place all responsibility on parents, leaving corporations free to exploit children for profit. The industry acts as if we are having a conversation about “values” like freedom.
Proposal: Envision the kind of community you want to live in – maybe a place of “peace and self determination, children and families thriving, unfettered, shaped by each other and our very best selves.” And then work toward that.
Also, a Storify by SPARK Movement.