Consumer Education Starts Early - Our Daily Green

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Consumer Education Starts Early

The first R of an environmentalist's education is Reduce. The easiest, quickest way to reduce is not to buy something in the first place. In a consumer culture where buy, buy, buy is encouraged, it takes a strong will to resist the barrage of advertisements.

Even more so when the advertisements are directed to children. Many nations have restrictions and laws against marketing directly to children either via television, radio and print – as well as new media (Internet and other electronic media) policies in place making it illegal to advertise directly to children. Packaging, in-store advertising, event sponsorship and promotions can also be ways to market directly to children.

The United States has few advertising restrictions, and in fact, frequently encourages corporate sponsorship as a way to offset the cost of educating children. Companies such as Scholastic have partnered with companies such as Cartoon Network, SunnyD (a sugary artificially flavored drink that touts high fructose corn syrup as the second ingredient and has been named Worst Food of the Week by Consume This First), and fast food icon McDonald’s.

In a recent controversy, Scholastic partnered with the American Coal Foundation to distribute educational material called the United States of Energy. Due to widespread protest, the campaign was pulled after two days. However, corporate influence on education continues to grow. Scholastic defended their decision with this statement,
“We acknowledge that the mere fact of sponsorship may call into question the authenticity of the information, and therefore conclude that we were not vigilant enough as to the effect of sponsorship in this instance. We have no plans to further distribute this particular program.”
The Boston based Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) asks Scholastic to go further and reject corporate sponsorship of curriculum. At,  Christine George eloquently states, "I don't want Scholastic to sell my children's minds to the highest bidder."

When Scholastic partnered with the American Coal Foundation, the NY Times reported the CCFC's reaction, 
The Campaign for Commercial-Free Childhood, a tiny group in Boston, has often been at odds with Scholastic, a $2 billion company whose books and other educational materials are in 9 of 10 American classrooms. 
Last year, the group criticized the company for its “SunnyD Book Spree,” featured in Scholastic’s Parent and Child magazine, in which teachers were encouraged to have classroom parties with, and collect labels from, Sunny Delight, a sugary juice beverage, to win free books. The campaign has also objected to Scholastic’s promotion of Children’s Claritin in materials it distributed on spring allergies. 
And in 2005, the campaign tangled with the company over its “Tickle U” curriculum for the Cartoon Network, in which posters of cartoon characters were sent to preschools and promoted as helping young children develop a sense of humor.
One of Our Daily Green's friends, children's musician Raffi said in a 2009 BlogTalk interview, "
“It is simply unethical to advertise to those who are too young to understand what they’re being sold. My question is, If it’s morally and spiritually repugnant to exploit the innocent, why is it legal? In three decades of doing this work, I’ve never once advertised to children.”
His worldwide fame proves that it is not necessary to market directly to children in order to be a success. What do you do to keep your children safe from the influence of advertising?

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