The Last Song

June 1, 2010
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What Really Is Materialism?
If you were to walk into an average high school these days, most likely you might think that you’re watching models strutting down the runway at a full blown fashion show. Girls walking around in designer jeans, $200 tops, and carrying Coach handbags; guys wearing expensive watches, Michael Jordan– brand shoes, and chatting about the new car that the “rents” just bought them.
Materialism in our society is on the rise and it can be defined as extensive desire or “need” for material items, sometimes in order to feel excepted (Levine 1).
Teens today have an increasing amount of pressure to fit in now than in earlier generations. Cythnthia Kopkowski from the National Education Association rightfully states, “ Tweens and teens today know that displaying more logos than a NASCAR driver can help secure a place at the cool table at lunch” (Kopkowski pg. 1). For these teens, the only thing that will get people to notice you is who designed the shoes you’re wearing. For those reasons, it is really an issue. Materialism today is a true problem in society that is harmful for future generations.

Materialism- Growing Controversy
Never before has the demand for material items been so great than the past decade. But how can you blame our present generation? With so many new technologies coming out, it’s truly hard not to want the newest and coolest items on the market. It is true that the demand for materialistic things has never been so high, but then again, if you think of it, there have never really been so many new technologies available. “Educators across the country say that students’ increased focus on clothes, gadgets, cars, and money is evident in their classrooms, and its starting to cause problems” (Kopkowski 1).
Consumer debt due exceedingly to a rise in materialism, has risen from 96%of disposable income in 2000 to 113% in 2004. In the 1980s, the savings rate of consumers was 10% of each dollar earned. By 2005 the savings rate dropped to a total of –.02%. These numbers have continued to worsen (Consumer Debt 7). We can see that materialism is on the rise and is not slowing down any time soon.

Parenting Influencing Materialism
Parents in many circumstances contribute to the materialism of their children. Many of the people in our upper-middle class society today live in a world of “if you want it, you can have it.” Parents today are too focused on pleasing their children by buying away their every desire. To help prevent this world of consumerism, we must focus on living a more conserved lifestyle (Farrell 57). It’s beneficial for future generations to begin raising families in a way of life that does not involve so much importance on materials. Focusing on the importance of family and friends is a sure way to prevent materialism from spreading throughout generations. Institute of Labor and Health’s Madeline Levine states that, “Our culture of materialism makes them [adolescence of today] lonelier, teaching them to replace people with things. They need a strong sence of self, an internal home, where they can retreat to problem solve and heal when the going gets tough” (Levine 5). Eliminating so many materialistic aspects of parenting and lifestyles will benefit the future generations by eliminating much of the demand for money-oriented items.

Materialism Troubling Kids Today
Rising pressure due to materialism is beginning to take its toll on the tween and teen age groups today. According to Martha Irvine of the AP National Writer, “A new study has found that five times as many high school and college students are dealing with anxiety and other mental health issues as youth of the same age who were studied during the Great Depression era”( Irvine 1). Later in the article, it explains that these statistics are heavily due to the rising focus on external status and wealth. Materialism in everyday life has been associated with impaired self-esteem, unhappiness in friendships, dissatisfaction of everyday life, and increased rates for depression (Schumaker 16). Adolescence who are very materialistic are known to have many emotional problems and poorer grades than non-materialistic kids.

Advertising Towards Teens Influences Materialism
Advertising toward adolescence has become “big business” for marketing corporations and has sent the ball rolling for early-on materialism. Kids and teens today have been targeted for advertising since advertising first began, but shockingly enough, average television advertisements children age 2-7 see is 13,904 annually; average ads seen by 8-12 year olds is 30,155 annually; and average ads seen by 13-17 year olds is 28,633 (Youth Oriented Advertising: Statistical Update 1).
Parental control over issues of advertising towards adolescence is beginning to slim down. Excess to the internet and television is hard to control in children’s lives, so marketing officials are taking full advantage of it.. Kids begin growing up in a world where having material items is just the normal thing to do. According to Jonathan Rowe and Gary Ruskin, the merchandise pushers have invaded the commons of childhood, the free open spaces of imagination and play, and turned them into a free-fire zone of commercial importing” (Rowe and Ruskin 42).

Is It All Bad?
Although many signs in our society point to materialism as being a negative thing, some experts say that it can be empowering towards teens in many ways. Jim Pooler, a professor at the University Saskatchewan and author of many consumer books states, “Shopping [then] provides the consumer with the power to define his or herself…” (Pooler 84). This safety net of shopping and buying materialistic items can help teens and tweens today feel more accepted and secure. This feeling of security is beneficial for teens and tweens alike (Pooler 85).
Materialism also leads to more purchases by consumers which also benefits society and the economy.
The Daily News reports that, “Educated Americans grow up in a world of moral materialism… and they go on to create companies like Apple” (We’ll Be Just Fine 1).

Steps Towards the Future
Our world is in need of true change if we want to eliminate the materialistic issues for future generations. Many different precautions are being taken in order to do just that.

One way to solve the consumer problem is just to resist the urge to buy what is not truly needed. Resistance from buying unessential items can reduce materialistic thoughts and actions. It is the brave thing to do (Talen 118).

Schools have been taking actions towards halting materialistic actions by requiring uniforms and creating harsher rules involving the use of cell phones and iPods on school grounds. “Those [schools] that require uniforms tout reduced peer presser and economic division among students.”(Kopkowski 2).

Parental control on children’s spending can also strongly influence the choices and understanding of adolescence today by directing them away from materialistic desires (Levine 5). Parents can also control what TV shows and movies are exposed to their children to help prevent the spread of materialism. Shows like My Super Sweet 16, Mad Men, Laguna Beech, and Jersey Shore promote negative ideas and false ways of life to the children of today’s society (Kopkowski 2). If parents can control the shows exposed to their children until a ripe age where seeing the foolishness and false-reality that these shows proclaim can certainly help our future generations from early exposure to materialism.

Materialism is a definite problem in today’s society that needs to be fixed for the benefit and well-being of future generations. Our world needs to start taking steps toward a less consumer-orientated society sooner than later. To ensure the steps that need to be taken, people need to begin to work together to teach the younger generations to focus less on what is wanted and more on what is needed or can help others (Levine 4). Face it people! We as a world need to begin to work together and stop the consumerism that is consuming our population. Materialism needs to end with this generation; starting today.

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sambo said...
Jun. 23, 2010 at 2:57 pm

This is quite an interesting topic you've thrown out there, as well as an interesting perspective.  I have to say that I disagree with what you have to say.  Though you present these arguments clearly and boldly, I have my own little opinions.

It's a common cliche that teens use materialism to--let's say--"boast" their position in their social circle.  Now, I'm not saying that's not true, but what have we got to say about those families?  What right do we have to in... (more »)

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