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Parent, Child, Consumer

Kids are being encouraged to grow up too soon.

Parents are becoming concerned that their children are being exposed to adult ideas too early in life.

According to Liz Szabo, writing in USA Today (4/12/11), "parents trying to raise healthy kids say they feel like they're doing battle with the culture, constantly trying to shelter their kids from an onslaught of trash from sugary sodas to violent videos."

Product marketers are working hard to develop the appetite for consumption among even the youngest of children, who "watch a lot of media - 32 hours a week by preschool," according to one source.

And they have discovered that what works to get kids to nag their parents effectively is to market sex, violence, and other "adult" themes. Even children's toys are reflecting the new appeal, as are the clothes children want to wear. Ms. Szabo cites Susan Linn, a children's advocate: "No generation of parents in history has dealt with this $17 billion (children's product) industry working day and night to bypass parents and target children with messages that undermine parental values."

Parents who still try to say "No" to their children are confronted with what marketers call "pester power," whereby children "can be incredibly effective at nagging" their parents to give them what they want. Which, of course, most parents usually do.

So let's see: The problem is all the media kids watch each week, with that nasty and subversive advertizing from those greedy marketers and children's product companies. Kids are being encouraged to grow up too soon. One expert told Ms. Szabo, "At least seven studies now suggest that kids who see the most sexual content at a young age may be twice as likely as others to have early sex."

"It feels like the boundary between childhood and adolescence has eroded," observed another expert. What's a parent to do?

Well, they might start by refusing to be complicit in the process. If you don't want your kids to grow up thinking life = consuming stuff, don't send them to schools which are custom-built to inculcate that mindset throughout all their years of education. If you don't want your kids exposed to sexual matter before it is appropriate, find something else to do with their time rather than let them plunk down in front of TV, video games, and social networking sites. Get them to read books, for example. Take them to interesting places. And when your kids complain and whine and hold their breath, just smile and walk away.

But most of all, understand why any of this matters anyway. If life is all about consuming and having sex and amusing ourselves to death in front of various forms of media - if that's the meaning of life, then why get upset at all? Let them get started early on, so that they can find their proper niche in a society devoted to materialism, consumerism, hedonism, and guardedly self-centered living.

If that's not an option you can live with, though, then establish some principles that will shape your kids in a better, more wholesome direction. The Scriptures would be a good place to start, and there is plenty of good material available to help parents learn to develop not only a Biblical view of parenting and childhood, but of all of life.

Develop a broad and consistent Christian worldview, and live it daily before your children. At the very least, they'll be able to see a living, breathing, viable - and loving - alternative to the trash and waste of the our consumerist culture.

Additional related texts: Philippians 4.8, 9; Ephesians 6.4; Psalm 78.1-8

A conversation starter: "Is there anything parents can do to protect their children from the onslaught of sexuality and violence coming at them from the media?"

T. M. Moore, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

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