Kids: Commodity or Community

As financial markets have collapsed, so also has the philosophy that gives money precedence over all else. Our attraction to money and materialism as a primary path to happiness is rapidly habituating. Increasingly, we are becoming aware of the limitations of a money driven economy. It has been particularly devastating in creating a culture for the healthy development of children.

Over the last forty years we have doubled our real incomes and what money buys. David Myers reports that we have twice as much stuff today as in 1960. At the same time the divorce rate has doubled, the teen suicide rate has tripled, violent crime has quadrupled, prison rates have quintupled (many inmates committed their crimes as older teens) AND we have soaring rates of depression (Myers, 2000).

At the same time, increasing research has shown the importance of community in rearing healthy, caring, responsible children. This does not require expensive gadgets, games, or toys.  It requires a family and community that is aware and cares.  We have a choice. Here is one way to see it: Commodity or Community

Commodity

In a recent article in Truthout, Henry Giroux gave a frank statement about the role of corporations in commodifying kids.  He reports that kids and teens, because of their value as consumers and their ability to influence parental spending, have become major targets for powerful marketing and financial forces that serve corporations.  The advertising and marketing industry spends billions a year on shaping children's identities and lives.

Corporate America, Giroux argues, basically values children as commodities.  Babies even at age one may be watching Teletubbies and eating the food of its "promo partners" Burger King and MacDonald's. Rather than having a childhood that is protected by a community that is concerned about their well being, Giroux states "the worth of young people is measured through the potentially barbaric calculations of finance, exchange value and profitability." The consequence - children who are compelled to confront a future that offers little hope of happiness or even survival.

Community

At the same time, we have increasing information about what it takes to raise healthy, caring responsible children. You do not need fancy toys and entertainment gadgets to do it. Much of it can be done by common ordinary caring activities. Indeed, Search Institute, in reviewing extensive research has identified the developmental assets that are needed for raising healthy children.

They include basic assets as a caring family, a caring community, boundary setting, organized activities, support for learning, and support for developing social skills and a positive identity. Television is not mentioned.  More information on the developmental assets may be attained at the Search Institute website.

Awareness Gives us Choice:

Awareness gives us choice. We can blindly follow corporate advertising, or we can become informed and empowered, taking responsible action in our communities, right where we are, one moment at a time. Which is more attractive to you?

Warm Regards,

Dr. Alice Vlietstra

Myers, David. Christianity Today, 2000, April 24.