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Ralph Nader > In the Public Interest > Corporate Takeover of Childhood

The corporate takeover of childhood is what marketing specialists euphemistically call “the integrated product marketplace.” That means tying together, through one conglomerate after another, television programming, advertising, music video, videogame, MTV, movies, food, cosmetics, clothing and other products to envelop children, by age groups, in a corporate product world.

Even the schools are now objects for company merchandising. Channel One beams 12 minutes a day to a captive audience of 8 million school children which includes 2 minutes advertising soft drink, deodorant, brand name shoes and other products.

The yearly degrading acceleration of this marketing madness is supersonic and so is the depravity of the violence, pornography sex and addictions that pervade the sensual appeals to the youth market.

Big companies are leading this carefully designed marketing effort — Time Warner, Sony, Viacom, Disney, MCA and others. To sell to children directly or get them to nag their parents to do so, it is necessary to probe and psychoanalyze every part of the child’s psyche — anxieties, emotional needs, peer group sensitivity, rebelliousness against parents and the like. This in turn requires marketing that separates the children from their parents, demoting the role of the parents and highlighting the independence of their offspring.

Meanwhile back at the homestead, lots of arguments and acrimony are breaking out between youngsters and their mom and dad that reflect the collision between parental values and corporate commercialism. Pre-teens spend more time with corporate entertainment and products than on schooling or any other activity. The average time of this corporate week, with no vacations, is at least 30 hours — between television, video, videogames, music and movies and now cyberspace.

What do the children receive for this time? Relentless communication of violence as a solution to problems, low grade sensuality, addiction, impulse buying, trust the profiteers with their cartoon superheroes, junk food and servile adherence to brand name logos.

Where are the parents? At work. Children spend less time with adults, including their parents, than any other generation in history. A middle class standard of living now demands a two-earner household. Children feel the loneliness and search for someone to give them meaning. Enter the corporate hucksters and the elaborate marketing seminars that teach them how to penetrate every conceivable interface of the lives of children, starting with infancy.

For parents to really defend against this onslaught (check out the lyrics of some of the music, the pornography pouring into cyberspace, the lewd, violent programming on video or television, for example), they would have to do the following: prohibit contact with other children, take them from school and give them home schooling, throw out the television, radio, VCRs and home computers and otherwise turn the household into a hermit house.

This is because the marketers boast over and over again that children cannot escape from exposure to their seductive appeals. As they reach teenage years, the addictive industries move in with their not so subtle appeals, advertised role models, athletic sponsorships, free samples and many other ways to hook these youths into a lifetime of smoking and drinking.

The creator of MTV bragged that they “own” fourteen year olds. A recent MTV magazine ad targets young people “24 hours a day, 365 days a year, while network television only targets them 22% of the time.”

There are many wholesome activities, described by child protection groups, that can involve children in the home, neighborhood and community. There are citizen advocacy associations fighting the addictors of children and violent programming. For the addresses of these organizations so that you can get their free materials, send a self-addressed stamped envelope to Essential Information, P. 0. Box 19405, Washington, DC 20036.