How would you feel if someone aimed a loaded weapon at your children? And yet, in the interests of more than 700 billion dollars worth of annual purchases, many industries are doing just that: loading the barrels of their marketing campaigns with whatever ammunition they can. Their targets: the minds and impulses of children—and if you think it’s just about money, you’re only partly right.
There is a “golden age” of opportunity in a young person’s life where subtle messages can yield a significant impact on their thoughts, decisions and character development.
Young people have impressionable minds, and unscrupulous marketers will capitalize on any weaknesses they can find—from lax parental discipline and permissive societal trends, to the ease of access that young people have to TV, Internet and social media.
Companies spend almost 17 billion dollars annually on graphics, commercials, labeling, product placement and the like—volumes of ad development and legions of creative personnel. All of this work aims to promote fast food, junk food, new toys, video games, items and fashion trends, and even tobacco products and alcohol, as desirable to kids—a lot of effort to sell forgettable novelties or even harmful foods and drugs.
Advertisers have learned that directly or indirectly, children influence the way their parents spend money, and in an increasingly materialistic society the best way to guarantee sales is to hook customers’ interests from the “cradle to the grave.”
Taking advantage of children’s inability to recognize persuasive advertising, or of the teenage vulnerability to peer pressure, sends the message: your children’s minds are fair game in the eyes of industries that employ such methods. They are objects, not people, in the quest to make money.
According to psychologist Allen D. Kenner, “Advertising is a massive, multi-million dollar project that’s having an enormous impact on child development,” and that entire futures are affected by the potential damage. The lack of concern (or indeed the intimate concern in destroying the willpower for the sake of greed) for the lifetime of gross consumerism and weakened character that comes from teaching children to get, get, get ranks on the first order of world class monstrosity.
This becomes even more dangerous when you recognize that such methods are not just employed in pursuit of commercial profit. Just one example: dig into the campaigns against commercial advertising to children, and you will quickly find such statements as “…young children are developing their gender identities.” Mixed among the ranks of those who lobby for restrictions on childhood marketing techniques for monetary gain, there are those who want to advertise alternative ideology to rising generations.
In education, government programs, progressive psychology and the like, a similar desire to influence the minds of children exists, based on the same “get em’ while they’re young” strategy. The parents that teach their children values—fiscal, moral or otherwise—are clearly enemies and obstacles—and much of the marketing and campaigning to influence children pushes this message, sometimes without shame or disguise! Rebellious attitudes and juvenile self-determination are good for profit and for breaking the hold of traditional values towards religion, sex, education and consumerism.
These tactics and their resulting effect on character don’t come only from money-hungry entrepreneurs and social revisionists. They actually originate from a rebellious and competitive spirit that rules the current age (2 Corinthians 4:4; 1 Peter 5:8), which seeks to poison people’s minds.
Scripture warns against this rebellious spirit (Ephesians 2:1–2), and provides a way to raise children with strong and resilient character, beginning with the words: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he shall not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).
Parents have a vital responsibility in raising potential children of God (Malachi 2:15)—whose hearts and minds should ultimately be turned towards their future and a giving way of life (Deuteronomy 6:6–9; Colossians 3:20).
If you would like to know more about this way of life, order Successful Parenting, God’s Way and read the article “True Education: Where Can You Find It?” Also keep up with how you can protect your kids, especially in this commercially charged “holiday” season, by reading, “Christmas: Harmful to Children?”