Let’s exploit children and youth…

www.sorenandersson.com

 

…Do children and youth have a right to choice?

A couple of weeks back when we went out for a family-dinner at a very nice restaurant, I couldn’t help myself from doing a little bit of “social studies”…

What struck me the most was a family of five, two adults, one child around 2-3 years old and two around 7-12 years old. After some initial “hustle” on who was going to sit where, they more or less stopped talking to each other. Already before the waiter took their orders the parents had set up an iPad in front of their youngest, sitting in a “highchair” – from a distance it looked like some kind of “Disney-based” interactive movie/game – the other two were so preoccupied texting or playing with their smartphone’s that the waiter actually had to “cut-in” a number of times to complete the orders…

I will try not to be didactic or judgmental here, I’m just going to accept that I don’t understand everything I experience and see – but It sure left me contemplating on our society and how we introduce our kids into it for a while…

Integrity

Do you remember the first time you brought a girlfriend or boyfriend home to meet your parents – perhaps you where a bit anxious that your parents should bring up something from your childhood that would be “slightly embarrassing”…

This is not a “problem” any more – now we have Facebook and Instagram – which means that parents most likely have broadcasted pictures and stories about you since your first breath at the maternity ward, and this without ever considering if it is a violation of your integrity…

www.sorenandersson.comPictures and stories that are uploaded to Internet are extremely difficult to erase, once they have been posted…

So let’s hope that your parents consider all aspects of your future, and safeguard your right to integrity, before posting…!

maybe a picture of you as a cute little toddler, sitting on a “potty” is something you are willing to share with your closest family, but maybe it’s not equally appealing to share with classmates when you are fifteen, with your date or with your new colleagues at twenty-five

Fear of Boredom…

Is it so horrible to be bored that you, at all times, must prevent it?

Isn’t it amazing that today children apparently have to be entertained 24/7 or at least every moment they are awake, it’s as if we somehow have come to the conclusion that they might otherwise become damaged for life …

www.sorenandersson.comIf there is any wisdom in this quote from Dorothy Parker, I suppose my own “philosophic” interpretation is;

“To really experience and appreciate happiness – there has to be dull moments as well…”

My own Lego-example:

Once upon a time, when I was a child (…‘100’ years ago…) we played a lot with Lego, at least when the weather didn’t allow us to be outside on the farm. Back then Lego only had boxes with various types of bricks – no “pre-designed” models.

We created so many different varieties that we actually managed to “wear-out” some bricks –
try that at home and you’ll understand how much it takes…

When our kids then were born, in the nineties, we bought Lego as soon as they understood the difference between what really is eatable and what is not…
At that time Lego had developed more into a “feature-model” type of toy, where you bought a Castle, a Pirate-ship or some other pre-designed model.
Although our kids loved to build these designs, more and more often we found them finished, serving as “dust-collectors” and very seldom saw any “experimenting” outside the attached assembly instructions.

But you know what – when we visited their grandparents, they always went for the old wooden box in the closet with the somewhat “worn out” Lego bricks from my childhood – they could sit for hours building something “right out of the blue”

… to avoid boredom – lot’s of parents seem to resort into “entertainment provided by others” quite often without supervision or scrutiny of messages and values “broadcasted” through these “channels” – giving commercial interests and marketers an almost uncensored access to communicate directly to and with their dear one’s … 

Parenting is a full-time chore, outsourcing it to others doesn’t mean that you are free from responsibility…

Product-placement

This is not a new thing, it’s been around “for ages” – I think my first notion of it was in some of the early James Bond movies, probably one where Roger Moore played Bond…

Today it is really big business, and companies pay enormous sums of money to get their products “visible” in a film, a magazine or in any other event.

www.sorenandersson.comWhile normal advertising almost always include a logo or a link, which gives you a chance to turn on your “advertisement-filter”, product placement is a much more subtle, concealed or even deceptive way to lure “consumers” into a behavior or buying specific products.

If your favorite actor or artist is seen using or wearing some product, it is not unlikely that you eventually will too…” – the fact that it is not so obviously a “commercial message” might even numb your vigilance.

… and it is very hard to protect yourself, and your kids against.

Kids and young people who might not yet be fully aware of the harsh reality of “marketing” are of course extra susceptible to this type of marketing.

quite often I am amazed how unchallenged and even unethically commercial interests and marketers are allowed to act.

Blogging

When I discussed this article, in the making, with a good friend, she told me that I should take a look at some of the Blogs that her two daughters, both in their early teens, where “almost addicted” to… She also gave me a couple of direct links and also a link to a “top-hundred” list of the most popular blogs in Sweden.

So, I spent some time surfing on different blogs – I was truly “flabbergasted”…

…when did it become socially accepted to brag?

Many of these blogs are characterized by a strong focus on materialism, fashion, specific brands, certain beauty ideals and excessive lifestyles and an extremely ego-fixated worldview, primarily boosting the bloggers own self-esteem – “the one who get the most ‘likes’, win…

www.sorenandersson.comIn many of the blogs, product-placement seem to be the main “feature” and there is hardly an item pictured or mentioned that doesn’t have a direct link to the manufacturer or a store.

Some bloggers are even openly bragging about how they are being given all kinds of products and services for free and how they are offered all kinds of personal benefits if they only talk well about the products in their blogs…

I don’t really know how to relate to this and I can imagine that many parents experience the same feeling – but that doesn’t really matter, it’s there and it is “broadcasted” directly to young people and children via the Internet and Social Medias 24 hours, every day, often by-passing all “parental filters” and “adult guidance”.

The single most popular blog of this genre in Sweden had 1,222,874 visits/week – 121 visits/minute – and that’s only one out of many [!]

(In 2013 there were 741,408 Teenagers and in total 1,279,653 young people between the ages of 13-23 in Sweden, 48% of these are girls – compare this to the number of blog-visitors…)

“May your life someday be as awesome as you pretend it is on Facebook”

…just the other day I came across something a little bit comical (or maybe not…) – a site called “independent fashion bloggers”. The first article caught my attention, it said; “How to find Fashion Blogger Sponsorship Programs” – it made me wonder; what is “independent” about having a sponsor – the article then included “templates” to use when asking for sponsorship and also how you have to promote products and brands once you receive “freebees”… independent – yeah right?

Washed-Out
Quite often there are news-articles and reports about young people being “washed-out”, about soaring suicidal rates, anorectic behaviors and teenagers stressing to fulfill “insane” ideals or to be in line with the latest trends…

…is there maybe a connection here – in a world where even supermodels are being “photo-shopped” by commercial interests to fulfil some extreme ideal…

… you know what’s a little scary – as an adult or a parent it is very easy to dismiss these blogs as “unreal”, “ridiculous” or “superficial”, based on your own “grown-up” experiences and values, but this doesn’t mean that they don’t exist anymore – they continue to “broadcast” directly to any Internet-gadget available…

IRL

“In Real Life” – what a suitable subtitle to end this article…

I am sorry if I became didactic or judgmental despite my promise and I’m sure that my thoughts probably have many flaws, but what are we doing to our children…?

…when we left the restaurant I overheard one of the youths complaining to his parents –“…their Wi-Fi really sucks, my game was “lagging” all the time…”

We went there to have a nice time in each other’s company and a good meal – and together we enjoyed every minute of it!