In January of 2008 I found out I was pregnant with Nate, our now three year old son. Almost immediately, I became a new kind of consumer: a parent. I wandered through baby stores wondering which diapers were best, how many strollers one baby could actually need, and whether or not I would, indeed, be putting my unborn child at a disadvantage if I never, ever showed him a Baby Einstein DVD. As my newborn son napped and I unpacked hundreds of tiny diapers, I was surprised to see that each brand carried its own licensed characters, parading across the front and back. I began to wonder, “Why?”. Newborns don’t care what their diapers look like; of that much, I am sure. I started thinking about how baby and child items, from diapers and wipes to LeapFrog systems and dolls, are marketed.
While doing some research about this topic for one of my grad classes, I came upon the book Buy, Buy Baby by Susan Gregory Thomas. This book all at once confirmed my suspicions about the problem of marketing to babies, toddlers and children while also giving me new things to consider/worry about when it comes to the influence of consumer culture on our youth. Gregory’s book takes us deep into the web of marketing aimed at parents and their children. It happens in our homes, cars, supermarkets, schools, doctor’s offices, and more. In the wake of the new recommendations from the AAP regarding screen time for toddlers (no screen time for kids under 2 years old!), this book is a great read for all parents or soon-to-be parents. We send a message to our children, and to corporations, when we spend our money. Gregory’s book delivers a crucial, resounding wake-up call to everyone involved in the lives of children and is worth a careful read. Check it out, but be prepared for a mental overhaul of how you think about shopping for and with your children.