They're Winning

August 6, 2008
By Rosie Lewis-Dunn, Greater Manchester, ZZ

Julie Johnson, mother of seven under ten year olds investigates how advertisers are fighting hard in the bloody battle over our children’s minds. As she reluctantly points out, they’re winning.
One o’clock. Feeding time at Chester zoo, but it’s not the animals who are making a fuss, it’s the seven hungry children who each insist on a different brand of highly marketed fast food. Three are drawn to the shiny golden arches of the worlds most recognisable of food chains, two insist that pizza hut would be the best option, despite the queues that stretch a mile in the baking heat and my youngest, at the tender age of four, is so bewildered by the brightly coloured marketing strategies employed by the most skilled of brainwashers that he can’t make up his mind. Each brand comes with its own message:
‘If you eat this food you’ll be popular;’
‘This product is fun and exiting;’
‘If you don’t buy our toy you’re missing out.’ Guilting him with loyalty and making him struggle to make a decision. In the end, like most kids do, he goes with the majority vote and opts for a Mc Donald's happy meal, a popular choice.
This is not a rare occurrence in our household or any other, for the parents of T.V.-crazed kids, every day is made up of battles, as parents we are always trying to stay in control. Somehow, it seems, most kids have got the message that it is us verses them, and who’s to blame for that? Well, I believe that the answer lies in the thousands of exploitative adverts that our kids watch every day. You may never have sat down to watch ‘The Disney Channel’ with your children. I believe that many parents would feel shocked if they saw the sheer volume of adverts on in the space of an hour, each intended to make a fool of us, paint us as the kill joys or abolish us from their world completely. So that they don’t feel guilty when they come to us asking for the latest ‘Nintendo Wii’ and we, the fools, fork out thousands of pounds each year whilst struggling to maintain the respect that parents used to have for less.
In my opinion fast food advertising is the worst. Making our kids crave the unhealthy, fattening foods that will ultimately make them unhappy. Meanwhile, in the same adverts, the media also paints unrealistic images of how we all should look and live. The latest KFC advert shows an attractive, conventional looking family, enjoying a large variety bucket, perhaps they wouldn’t have that healthy glow if this was a regular occurrence in their fictional household. What’s more alarming than this, however, is the message that is put forward through the narrative in this advert. It seems to prove the point to children that it is better to be the same as others rather than to be yourself. The first scene depicts a girl around the age of ten with her new scooter, she opens the door to be horrified to see that everyone else is on roller skates. Why should her face drop when she sees that she is the only child with a scooter? Why is this the message that we paint to our youngsters?
Child expert Nina Simmons, has researched in depths the effects that this bombardment of adverts can have on children. After much research she has concluded that children exposed to over 50 adverts a day can develop materialistic and wasteful attitudes towards products, low concentration skills and find it difficult to maintain happiness as they ever-reach towards the airbrushed faces behind the screens. ‘What’s worse,’ she argues, ‘Is that the government realises the affects these adverts are having on children. By banning all scenes that display children putting themselves in danger they are admitting a) That adverts influence kids other than persuading them to buy the product, and b) The disregard for our children’s welfare that advertisers have when advertising their product. Parent’s are unknowingly putting their children in this ruthless world by the majority age of five!’ This is clearly an issue close to her heart, as she makes the hard hitting point that ‘anorexic teens have often expressed how advertising has influenced their views on body image.’
Sadly, we are not over dramatizing the issue. With the lives of parents becoming increasingly busy, children need a safe source of entertainment within their homes away from the pressures of advertising. Parenting is not the issue, like any reasonable parent I don’t want to queue for a small portion of cheap fast food that will make my kids hyper for the rest of the day. But through my efforts to avoid conflict, they win this battle. But though they don’t realize it, it’s not really a victory for them, it’s a victory for some man in a suite a million miles away from us, making money from my children’s susceptibility.

The author's comments:
This is an article I wrote for school demontrating a fictional parent's attitude towards the affects that adverts are having on her children. The characters are fictional but the issues are real.

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