The sleeping giant awakens: US government gets active

The FTC has a launched a new effort to teach kids about advertising, which is interesting because the FTC lost its authority to oversee advertising to children in 1980. I’m wondering if this is the beginning of an effort to get that authority back. The agency created a video game for children in 4th to 6th grade to impart this message. Naturally – what else would you use to attract the attention of kids?

So I enlisted three 11-year-old boys- 5th graders – to test out the new game, Admongo. These are kids who find a new video game online and start playing immediately – knowing intuitively not only the objective of the game, but how to move the characters around.
High points: The game has fun, colorful graphics, and you get to personalize your avatar, which the kids seem to like to do.
The test: The boys thought Level One and Level Two were not too much fun because they were too easy. But at Level Three, they couldn’t figure out how to play the game, which is obviously surprising since they always know how to play the games. It seemed like there was a bug in the game and it just wasn’t working properly. There seemed to be a few other glitches.
So I’m glad to see that there is an effort, but the video game needs work. I’m hoping at the higher levels it also offers more of a mental challenge.

Now one concern is that the FTC has teamed up with Scholastic, which has a fairly questionable record when it comes to marketing to children. Scholastic has used its educational publishing credentials as a wedge to get into schools, and then markets all kinds of junk to kids through its fund-raiser book sales and monthly book club flyers – toys, lip gloss, etc. Not exactly the stuff that is going to engender a love of literature in the little ones.
Scholastic was also selling the sexed-up Bratz dolls in elementary school book fairs until they were forced to stop.

So parents, too, need to question the brands that are marketed to us.

Also, I was surprised by this statement in the New York Times article about the new effort:

Many schools have courses in what is called media literacy, intended to help students analyze various methods of persuasion, among them sponsored messages.

I don’t think it’s true that many schools have these courses. In fact, I think such courses are desperately needed throughout the public schools in all grades. Where are these schools, Stuart Elliott? They might be in New Mexico. That’s another post.

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