Parents Tell Toy Marketers to Leave Kids Alone
Margo Rutledge Kissel
Daytona Daily News
December 23, 2008
KETTERING — Josie Marsh, a grandmother, worries about the level of toy marketing aimed directly at children. And the tough spot some parents and grandparents find themselves in trying to meet those holiday gift requests.
Her only grandson, who is 9, has requested an expensive Nintendo Wii.
"That's what he wants so that's what we're getting him," said Marsh, 50, of Dayton, explaining that family members are going in on the gift together. She fears the gifts will only get more extravagant as the boy grows.
"What are they going to do with him when he turns 12 or 13?," she said while shopping for nieces and nephews at a Meijer store in Kettering.
Marsh is not alone in her concern.
About 1,400 people recently wrote to 24 leading toy companies and retailers to express their concern about ads aimed directly at kids.
The letter-writing initiative was launched by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood based in Boston.
"Essentially marketing to children is unfair under any circumstances but in the midst of the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression, there is something obscene about dangling sophisticated ads for toys and other products when families are really struggling," said the organization's director, Susan Linn.
The Toy Industry Association defended current marketing practices, asserting that children "are a vital part of the gift selection process."
"If children are not aware of what is new and available, how will they be able to tell their families what their preferences are?" the association said in a written statement. "While there are certainly greater economic disturbances going on now, families have always faced different levels of economic well-being and have managed to tailor their spending to their means."
Linn, a mother of two grown children, agrees that parents need to be gatekeepers but she believes the marketing efforts undermine that role by targeting kids through ads on TV, cell phones and MP3 players.
"It's very easy to say 'it's all up to parents' and 'parents should just say no,' but we all have a responsibility," Linn said. "It's in everybody's best interest if we raise healthy, creative, well-functioning kids."
The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood released a free, downloadable Guide to Commercial-Free Holidays, offering practical tips and suggestions for reducing or ridding commercialism from family celebrations.
• Take time for reading aloud stories from your cultural tradition, preparing traditional foods and actively engage children in giving, not just receiving.
• Focus family gift-giving away from fulfilling personal desires and toward meeting the needs of others.
• Turn off the TV to find more time for family activities.
• Make your own personal gifts or give a young child something that encourages creative play.
For more tips, go to www.commercialfreechildhood.org.