The Big Tween Market Machine: Why Pre-adolescents are Marketers’ Dream

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“What do you call a consumer who wants to buy everything you have, doesn’t care what it costs and is less than five feet tall? A marketer’s dream? Nope. You call them kids.” 

AdRelevance Intelligence Report, 2000

While marketing to children is nothing new – having first been introduced in the 1960s – the aggressive marketing to those on the cusp of adolescence (ages 9-14) is a phenomenon that has arisen much more recently, in direct synchronicity with the “internet age” and the rise of new media (1990s-present). This demographic, the so-called “tween” group (for “in between”), was in fact entirely developed by and for marketers, and took on economic significance before it took on cultural significance (1).  It would not be a hyperbolism to suggest that tween culture was, in fact, entirely manufactured by the marketing machine. To understand the aggressive and pervasive nature of tween marketing, it’s important to first understand why this arbitrary distinction was created. Why “tweens”? What tweens have to offer to marketers that is so important vs. what children and teenagers already provide as consumers? Why has this market exploded the way it has in the last decade? The answer boils down to the fact that tweens, being in a transitory period, face a great degree of sudden vulnerability. And, at the same time, they retain full access to parental funds. This juxtaposition of susceptibility to influence and spending power is more prevalent among tweens than it is among teens or children.

Tweens’ Influence on Household Spending

Tweens are too young to legally earn their own money in order to attain what they want, so retain a child’s relatively unquestioned reliance on (and thus access to) their parent’s funds. According to BusinessWeek magazine, “Of the reported US$ 51 billion spent by tweens themselves, an additional $170 billion was spent by parents and family members directly for them” in the United States annually (2).  In the UK, we have 11 million people aged 15 and under, with a remarkable total expenditure of £12 billion from children up to 18, money often coming from own pocket money (alas parent’s pockets!) and part-time jobs (2b). This does not merely represent an access to more money on the part of tweens, but also a far greater lack of discretion about what they will spend it on. Teens, by contrast, who have begun to earn and control their own funds, have more awareness of the fact that money is finite and needs to be prioritized around what they really want, introducing a level of agency and choosiness about what they buy which is the precursor to adult spending habits. At the same time, tweens have just enough independence to exert power over household spending decisions owing to a shift in family dynamics which took place during the 1990s, and is known to play a key role in modern marketing strategy.(3) This shift saw a large number of tweens living in households where both parents work and in single-parent households (in 1994, one in four households in the United States with children was headed by a single parent, up from one in eight in 1970 [Miller, 1994]), and led to far more responsibility being placed upon tweens and teens (e.g. grocery shopping duties, which fully one-third of tweens have), giving them greater purchasing power and more independence. (Cuneo, 1989; McLaughlin, 1991; Miller, 1994; Rickard, 1994)(3) Tweens have been shown to have more “discretionary purchasing power than younger children or older adolescents, to shop at least three times a week, and to save 30% of their spending money for higher ticket items.” (McLaughlin, 1991) This access and right to adult funds and influence over what is done with them combined with tweens’ unique psychological vulnerabilities make them extremely appealing to marketers, and has been a strong factor in the developing pervasiveness of marketing directed at them.

The Role of Peer Pressure in Marketing to Tweens

As mentioned earlier, tweens are in a unique phase of psychosocial vulnerability. Most children in this age group are going through a fundamental change in their place in the social hierarchy around them, moving from schools where they were the oldest, most respected, “coolest” kids, to environments that are new, alien, and place them as the youngest and most vulnerable members. They have to “start over” socially at exactly the same time as their own bodies are developing in sudden, often troubling ways. The tween years are a period of intense change: mental, physical, emotional, and social. This breeds an incredibly intense pressure to “fit in”. Most surveys conducted on the priorities of tweens note fitting in on the top of, or very near the top of, the list. Naturally, this creates a deep need to have what their peers have and look how their peers look — a marketer’s haven for creating trends around brands. Teens, by contrast, are increasingly rebellious and eager to carve out individual identities, meaning that mainstream pop culture (and therefore the marketing therein) is something many teens grow to define themselves against, rather than by, an obvious challenge to marketers (for whom mainstream appeal is the goal, as it brings with it maximum profit potential). The pop idols and Disney shows that were the height of cool when they were twelve are the epitome of “lame” by 15 or 16 — hence why many pop stars (e.g. Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus) are aggressively marketed to smitten tweens while often being almost universally loathed by older teens. Research confirms the fact that tweens place even more emphasis on brand names than do older adolescents (Cuneo, 1989; Fitzgerald, 1992; Koester May, 1985; McLaughlin, 1991; Simpson, 1994). They are particularly concerned with having the “cool” brands when it comes to clothing and other matters of appearance. They much more strongly associate conformity with the need for acceptance, approval, and harmonious relationships with others (Batra, Kahle, Rose, Shoham, 1994).(3) Today’s tweens are also the most “wired” generation in history (heavily using the internet and mobile devices), meaning this peer pressure travels with them everywhere they go, and thus so does the potential to market to it. Tweens are also far more likely to click on things like banner ads than other age groups and are more susceptible to viral marketing tactics that promote the spread of a message from one user to another. Marketing to tweens via interactive social venues like chat rooms, forums, and e-mail have been noted to be especially effective.(4) Due to this, the prevalence of online marketing (both obvious and subtly worked into interactive media) has risen sharply over the last decade.

The Impact of Puberty: Body Image and Gender Roles

No discussion of tweens could be complete without examining the role of puberty; the rapid changes taking place in tweens’ bodies throws how these young people relate to one another into chaos, thrusting gender roles into sudden and stark relief and raising big questions about sex, dating, marriage, and the possibility of having children. Little girls and boys who were simply playmates a year or two prior suddenly find they have to redefine their peer roles around their emerging sexuality. This creates a deep need in tweens to understand themselves as gendered persons, and tween marketing capitalizes on this by offering strongly gendered media that plays into tweens’ heightened body awareness and subsequent concerns about their appearance. While this newfound awareness is hard on the self-esteem of both genders, it has been found to be significantly harder on girls (owing in large part to an intense perceived pressure to be thin), with research conducted throughout the United States, Korea, and Australia showing that the body dissatisfaction which arises in girls during puberty “is associated with lower levels of self-esteem and increased likelihood of depression among early adolescent girls.” (Newman & Newman, 2006, p. 303.) The earlier a girl physically matures, the worse this impact tends to be, and the more likely serious consequences (such as eating disorders) become.(5) As self esteem is a “central component of personality and identity” and is centrally tied to one’s “confidence in one’s ability to think and to cope with the challenges of life and confidence in one’s right to be happy” (Clancy and Dollinger, 1993)(6), young girls’ desire to identify with themselves in a positive way (and thereby achieve greater agency and success) makes the consumption of images of beautiful, thin young women incredibly appealing—something tween television programming and advertising media taps into (and profits from) frequently. To assess this phenomenon, Ashton Lee Gerding, a humanities student, and Nancy Signorielli, professor of communication at the University of Delaware, analysed 49 episodes of 40 distinct American tween television programs that aired in 2011 on Disney Channel, Disney XD, Nickelodeon and the Turner Cartoon Network. They catalogued and examined more than 200 characters in terms of their attractiveness, gender-related behaviour and personality characteristics such as bravery or ability to handle technology (7): “Tween viewers are undergoing an important developmental stage and actively seek cues about gender,” said Gerding. “Television programming can play an important role in that development, so we examined tween television programming. Overall, girls were portrayed as more attractive, more concerned about their appearance, and received more comments about their appearance than male characters. However, female and male characters were equally likely to be handy with technology and exhibit bravery. This sends the message that girls and boys can participate in and do the same things, but that girls should be attractive and work to maintain this attractiveness”. “Tween television programs may help to shape the way kids think about the roles that are available for them. Therefore, we advise parents to watch these programs with their kids and talk with their tweens about their roles in society. We also advocate for media literacy programs that could mitigate some of the potential negative effects of these programs.”

Tips for Parents: How to Moderate the Impact of Tween Marketing

Marketing is an inevitable part of the world most of us live in, so parents cannot hope to entirely shield their tweens from the impact of marketing on their developing adolescence. Parents can, however, give their tweens tools to help them cope with the barrage, and parents should never undervalue their role in this area. No matter how pervasive the media and marketing have become, tweens still cite their parents as their biggest influence when it comes to important decisions, even in “private” areas like sexuality. Parents can, absolutely, make a strong difference in how teens interpret and deal with the media and the marketing that is so aggressively aimed toward them. Prof. Agnes Nairn and Ed Mayo with the help of UK charity Care for the Family completed a “pester power” online survey and published a pamphlet Pester-power: Families surviving the Consumer Society (2007) which include a comprehensive summary of “survival tips” adopted by parents against the current marketing pressure. The booklet can be downloaded from this link: http://goo.gl/Q34ME9 (10). In this blogpost I want to include some suggestions provided by the Media Awareness Network, the Canadian Paediatric Society, and Susan Linn (psychologist and author of Consuming Kids: The Hostile Takeover of Childhood)(8), which should help parents navigate the murky waters of children commercialisation:

  • Start young. Children are influenced by marketing from a very young age.
  • Limit children’s exposure to advertising on television and on the Internet. Don’t allow them to have televisions or Internet-enabled computers in their rooms, and limit TV time to one or two hours per day.
  • Talk to your kids about how advertising works and what advertisers are trying to accomplish. Explain that advertising is a multi-billion dollar business whose goal is to get people to buy things, and that they are very good at it.
  • Encourage kids to think critically about marketing messages. You can start as small as you like: last year a Grade 6 math class in Thunder Bay, Ontario debunked a “fun fact” on a package of Smarties, which claimed that Canadians eat enough Smarties each year to circle the earth 350 times. They found that in order for the claim to be true, either the earth would have to be a lot smaller, or each Smartie would have to be 3.5 metres in diameter.
  • Help kids to understand the strategies used by advertisers. Talk with kids about specific ads: “How do you feel about the people in the ad? Do you want to be like them? Why or why not? Does the ad make you feel uncool for not owning the product, or that you’ll feel good about yourself if you buy the product? What are some other ways you could get those feelings, without buying the product? Has the ad used any ambiguous words or impressive-sounding facts and figures to make the product sound better than it is? At the end, did the announcer say anything like ‘some assembly required’ or ‘batteries not included’?”
  • Explain about product placement: if characters in a movie or TV show are using a particular brand, the advertiser probably paid a lot of money for it to be there.
  • Discuss how your kids can be smart, responsible consumers by knowing what is good for them and what is not, what is good for the environment and what is not, and what is good value for money.
  • Educate children about nutrition using your country’s Food Guide. Discuss whether eating only things you see on TV makes for a healthy, balanced diet. Make a distinction between “everyday” foods and “sometimes” foods.
  • Before going grocery shopping, decide exactly what you plan to buy, including snacks and treats. Having a list that you and your kids have discussed ahead of time makes it easier to avoid impulse purchases and set limits in the store.
  • Monitor your own media habits and buying habits, and change them if necessary. Children pick up early on what is important to their parents.
  • Most importantly, make sure TV, Internet, and video games “screen time” is well balanced with family time, active/creative play, playing outdoors, reading, and other activities without marketing attached!
Main references:
1. https://etd.ohiolink.edu/!etd.send_file?accession=bgsu1119390228&disposition=inline
2. http://www.businessweek.com/stories/2005-10-11/marketing-and-tweens2b. www.tgisurveys.com/tgi/Youth2006.PDF  and Youthscape Report: Attitudes, Behaviour and Spending Habits of UK Kids & Teens, Q4: 2013 https://www.marketresearch.com/Swapit-v3893/Youthscape-Attitudes-Behaviour-Spending-Habits-8261648/
3.  http://42051.faithweb.com/Tween%20consumes%20catalog%20clothing%20purchase%20behavior.html
4.  http://www.cdc.gov/youthcampaign/research/PDF/LitReview.pdf
5. http://www.brighthubeducation.com/teaching-methods-tips/3320-development-in-early-adolescence-puberty-and-low-self-esteem/
6.  http://www.drwrite.com/research/sample2.shtml
7.http://www.science20.com/news_articles/tween_programming_is_disney_promoting_stereotypes_or_creating_what_kids_want_to_watch-134661
8. http://www.aboutkidshealth.ca/en/news/newsandfeatures/pages/target-market-children-as-consumers.aspx
9. http://www.slideshare.net/gerdavandamme/whitepaper-digital-marketing-to-generation-spongebob
10. http://www.careforthefamily.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/301-08-ppinf02-pester-power-booklet-10-september-2008.pdf

			

56 thoughts on “The Big Tween Market Machine: Why Pre-adolescents are Marketers’ Dream

  1. Tween marketing is becoming a huge issue. It’s very smart on the advertisers part, but I feel as if It’s wrong on many levels.

    Being a teacher, I work with hundreds of Tweens each year. As the years go by, I am blown away by the materialistic objects some of these kids bring around with them. LV bags, really? I can’t even afford an LV bag, and I have two jobs! These kids have everything from designer bags/clothes to the newest iPhones, Beats Headphones, etc. These are pricey things!

    Because of advertisements, both tweens and parents alike have to feel an immense amount of pressure to keep up. This brings up the issue of bullying. I have witnessed it myself; the kids with lesser known brand clothing get teased due to the fact that they don’t have the latest Michael Kors item. Parents are petrified of their children not having what the other children have; they want their child to fit in. I don’t think the issue necessarily has to do with the fact that some parents just “spoil” their kids, I think that some parents just do what they have to do so that their children can get by.

    Tween advertising has gone way too far, in my opinion.

    • I have a niece and nephew who are only 5, and every time they see a new toy advertised on TV, they call me to the TV so they can show me what to buy them. (I never buy them anything from TV, so it’s just a fun game at age 5.) Also, they do bring their toys to day camp or preschool to share and trade with friends, as a social lubricant.
      But it’s one thing to want things just because they are fun, and an entirely different thing to want things because you’ll be bullied if you don’t have them! I didn’t realize the extent of the pressure that the tween’s parents and teachers must be under — not just to buy things, but to reduce the violence and teasing when kids don’t “fit in.”

      I’m glad you pointed out that this kind of thing is going on. It really never occurred to me.
      I guess I always assumed that the kids just wanted this stuff because (a) they want it — anything they see, they seem to want — and (b) because they can combine resources with friends and have more elaborate games when, collectively, they have all the characters or moving parts.
      I wonder what would cause a kid to bully another kid just because of a fashion faux pas? There’s got to be some kind of bullying in the family, I would think.
      Adults often assume that they must be rather a bully when interacting with children. And children who are angry and can’t respond to the bullying parent are more likely to bully a younger or smaller kid at school. In my opinion, this cycle has a role in making the marketing even more effective. If a child has not been bullied and the parents have taken the advice of this blog and helped them think about their social roles and the roles of marketers, that child will be happier, more secure, and less susceptible to marketing. If a child is bullied and made to feel “less than” or worthless, that child will REALLY need the toys and other feel-good substitutes for self-esteem.

      I see the focus of this blog as helping girls feel more deserving because they are who they are, rather than simply because of their looks. It’s a truly worthy goal. I also envision a radiant benefit for society from this kind of help for girls. The ripple effect of well-being can be a true force for harmony.

      • I used to love commercial as a child and vividly remember making my Christmas list from them. Did my parents ever buy them…No lol but it was fun! I didn’t think about having to buy it to stop bulling either but that is another way to look at it. I never experience that so I don’t have first hand knowledge. We desperately need to address the bullying in the Country. Not just with the kids, but the parents!

    • I have kids 10 and 14. It kills me to think that they are going to face the things I did when I grew up. When I was a tween/teen my father went to the cheapest store and bought me 5 pairs of the EXACT same pair of pants that were on sale. I was made fun of and said that I never washed my clothes. I had to take all 5 pairs of the same jeans to school to show the bullies that I had 5 pairs. They still made fun. I was made fun of because I couldn’t afford to attend the French Class party, I didn’t have good enough shoes.

      So when we go to yard sales, we go toward the ‘name brands’ for .25 and hope that they are good enough to keep the bullies at bay.

      Unfortunately our daughter is a little heavy and the older boys are ‘special’ and pick on her enough to make her cry. It’s so sad.

    • Veronica, you hit the nail right on the head sister! Marketing Advertisers are only doing what they get paid to do and that is get the product sold.

      I work for a Sales & Marketing company in Dallas, TX and I am hear to tell you guys…when we are in meetings discussing advertising for a pre-adolescent item, whether it is a designer item or just a Mickey Mouse backpack; the last thing on our mind is “Oh, we can’t do this because it will cause pressure on parents to buy and keep up with the Benjamins”.

      The tips in this article are spot-on and Parents really have to take a role in every aspect of their child’s life and that even includes introducing commercials to them and what they can really mean!

      It’s a-shame to me it has come to the bullying and the pressure the kids and parents feel now a days because I can remember watching Saturday morning cartoons or whatever and seeing the commercials come on and I wish I had the item because Betty Sue had it, but it was no big deal because Betty Sue would let me borrow the item if I wanted to use it down the road.

      • Dana, I see where you’re coming from. Marketers aren’t the bad guys. I have been in sales and marketing my whole life, and I understand the job – to get products sold. I think the important lesson here is that everyone plays a role. Marketers need to be responsible with their messages, while parents need to be involved in what their ‘tweens see and do.

        Just my two cents! 🙂

        • Brent, are you kidding me? How can you honestly defend such an indefensible position? I would urge you to read Dr. Daniel Acuff’s award-winning book, “Kidnapped: How Irresponsible Marketers Are Stealing the Minds of Your Children”; with insightful analysis, Dr Acuff shows that not only are our children in danger… but that conning children is in fact a multi-billion dollar industry. There is ample proof of the irresponsibility, these companies care about their share prices, not our children’s futures.

      • I agree with you Dana, and likewise, I constantly worry about my 10 year niece Samantha; I think as parents we need to take the irresponsibility of marketing companies more seriously. Children today are simply growing up in a different world and I seriously worry about the impact all this bullying is having on their emotional development. Virtually from the time they can talk, today’s kids are pummelled with subtle, insidious advertising manipulations. This is something that elected politicians need to address as it’s a profit driven industry that can be controlled. Less unapproved of marketing, more parental responsibility and control is what’s needed. And, if a marketeer doesn’t abide, revoke their business license. Childhood is simply too important.

    • I can not agree more whole-heartedly. We need to educate the parents as well as the children/tweens/teens. The push for materialism is out of control. Attempts to use uniforms fail of parents/schools don’t also monitor the type of bookbags, accessories. Part of the issue is that children and twixt/teens are seeking to form their identity on so many different levels. And they are using these outward signs as character costume tryouts. This is especially wasteful when those character accessories are LV bags! Or google lens at school! If we could somehow encourage them to create their own “costuming” like we did in school. The girls had home ec classes and we made our first dresses that weren’t uniforms we could wear to school. This taught us a trade, taught us self reliance, and taught us to look at our bodies realistically. This is such a complex issue. We have to go at it from all directions if we want to see any progress.

      • Your idea of bringing back home ec classes with dressmaking sounds like a great idea – only I would make sure the boys learned it too – they need it just as much and we don’t want to enforce gender stereotypes any further!

    • I can understand how marketers target the tween market because they are so easily influenced and have plenty of financial backing from consumer-loving parents. People today in general seem to lavish their kids more than ever…so it makes perfect business sense.

      But I don’t like the way society has become so materialistic and the focus is just on what you have and how expensive it is…as if flaunting your materialism somehow makes you better over the person who doesn’t have the status item(s). I think young kids today don’t get an appreciation for the work that is involved in earning the money which allows them to have luxury items. When they enter the workforce and must earn it for themselves, they will be in for quite a shock.

      I feel that the constant pressure to keep up with what “everyone else” has, just fuels the entitlement mindset and an insatiable appetite for materialism. We all lose in the end, because the focus has become a shallow, self-centred ideal.

    • I agree 100%, Veronica. I don’t have kids but my boyfriend is a youth football coach, and so I’ve spent a lot of time at the field volunteering to help the organization with their social media accounts during the game, and as I look around at the kids there it’s all I can do to stop myself from shaking my head at what I see. This materialism has gotten out of control in my opinion. It honestly sometimes makes me worry about when I do have kids of my own – I’m not going to be the type of parent who gives their kid an iPhone in middle school, but I worry about how they’ll be viewed by their peers.

      Advertisements really don’t help at all, and there is one commercial in particular that agitates me more than anything. I don’t know if anyone here has seen the commercial for the Fire phone from Amazon, but the commercial features a couple of nine year olds. Let me tell you, when I have a nine year old, he or she will not be the proud new owner of a smartphone. I don’t care what the advertisements are trying to push – more parents need to put their foot down. Advertisements can market as much as they want (even though I don’t agree with their advertising), but it’s up to the parents to say no. Why they give in to their kids requests for gadgets like these is a whole other area to be explored.

    • Veronica, you’re right, it is wrong on many levels.

      While it is smart on the part of the advertisers (let’s be honest here; they are in the business of selling as much as possible), it’s very shady how they hone in on a group made up of extremely impressionable people who want nothing more, in most cases, than to fit in with others around them.

      My husband and I fight with this constantly. Our ten year old daughter is always hopping from one fad to the next, and along with each fad there are “must have” products that all of her friends have. So, naturally, she wants those items too.

      I know this is something that we’ve all gone through growing up, but what is alarming for me today is that marketers are pushing more and more evocative products on younger girls. This is where lines have to be drawn, and society as a whole needs to say ‘enough is enough’.

      Sadly, though… Sex sells & advertisers will continue to try and sell it to whoever will buy… Even if that means targeting the coveted ‘tween’ market.

  2. Beautifully written, it sounds like brainwashing to me… and all this for what? money… It seems that the toys, sugary foods, and money making products, advertisements, and billboards are desensitizing us and it’s almost impossible to escape! I don’t remember seeing that many implied nude images selling jeans on billboards when I was growing up… but now they are everywhere… yes they may grab everyones attention but at what cost? it’s hard for girls to ignore those images on TV, in magazines and on billboards when they are constantly surrounded by them and setting a false photoshopped standard of how they should look. Inspiring healthy products with a good message could be just as powerful or more powerful in the long run of improving health, happiness, confidence levels, and overall well being of girls all over the world, which would change the world for sure. I love your blog and what you are doing, making Waves in the media!!

    • Brainwashing might be the proper term. I’m convinced that each purchase we make was not really our decision. A team of marketers spends their entire life leading consumers in the direction they want them to go.
      I feel that the tween advertising was picking up during my tween years (the early 2000’s), but my parents helped shield me from a lot of it and my parents did not give in to my every whim. I love that Francesca gives tips to the parents because they are were this has to stop. The markets will never quit and the tweens don’t understand the marketing world. The parents must take action.

      • Insidious brainwashing to be exact. The “lunchables” snack was created in direct response to an intense marketing research project designed to reach the tween group and to corner the packed lunch market for busy moms. They were relying in large part for mothers to be too busy to properly look into the ingredients and with a few well placed magazine articles, the moms were in. My own son loved them. He said he liked that he had choices. And years later when the research was put online, I saw that a key to the marketing success among the tweens is that it gave them the perception of choice at the same time it gave the moms a false sense of “job well done & time saved”. When asked about seeing a ‘lunchable snack box” in the wedding photo of the daughter of the project’s brainchild, she denied ever eating one. She just joked that her father had been so obsessed with the project she felt as though the lunchable was a sibling and the photo was a family inside joke, since none of them would ever eat anything so unhealthy.

  3. I agree completely with the above comments, I feel that they make some really valid points, especially the idea that parents do not “spoil” their children, as much as trying to help them get by with peers with the ridiculous standards that are set by what children wear and bring to school. I loved the way in which this article is written, I think some of the tips for parents to counteract advertising are really insightful. As a mother of a 7-year-old daughter I worry about these issues constantly. What will she be like in a few years? Will she be desperate to fit in, and what will she be willing to do to achieve that. This issue affects all the decisions I make for her now while she is young, like what I allow her to read and watch on television, what I allow her to wear, and even what school I allow her to go to. For instance in one school there might be quality education and resources available, but I still don’t want her attending this school if there will be kids there that have such a expanse of finances from their parents that there is extreme pressure for her to have “things” to fit in as a student. I feel this is an unacceptable barrier to my child’s development. This type of advertising is already affecting her decision-making, already she’s obsessed with an acne medication that she feels she needs, because she’s afraid of having pimples. She has never even had a pimple yet, and has been made aware and worried about this issue of appearance solely through advertising. I feel this type of advertising towards tweens and children is unacceptable and should be combated in every way possible.

    • Nina, I couldn’t agree more with your comments! Nowadays, there are always these trends/fads when it comes to products where all of a sudden every has it, wants it, or has been begging their parents for it. A lot of time it is because they want to fit in, or have the same thing that their peers have. Young girls really are a marketers dream because marketers think they will be so easily influenced.

      My niece is 6 years old and my sister does a great job of encouraging her to think on her own, as she doesn’t encourage or give in to the media. This makes me feel confident that my niece will not be a marketer’s target. I think that it is important for people to do research and see if it’s REALLY what they want (not just what their friends have) before purchasing something. We live in NY, so as you can imagine there are girls from a very young age spotting all these fads, or having these expensive items.

      Now, it’s almost like a competition between young people as well as adults about who has the better thing, or who has more things. It really shouldn’t be like that, especially for people at such a young age. I agree that it is so unacceptable and should not be continued.

      • You both are so right! Marketers are targeting children younger and younger. It is sad that parents need to spend so much on their children for their children to feel like they fit in. And now, children are given expensive material things at such a young age. When I work as a preschool teacher just a few years ago, the 3 and 4 year old’s had better and nicer phones than me! This shows just how young marketers are targeting. And as long as parents are willing to continue to spend so much on their children, then companies will continue to target them. A child is a marketers dream! What better individual to target? Who better to market to than a child who will break an expensive item and then demand that the parent buy a new one? Companies would have no incentive to change their marketing any time soon.

  4. Yes, Nina, I agree with you. This type of advertising should be combated, but the question is how? Just like in the article there are very good tips given to parents about ways to deal with this issue, but unfortunately that will only go so far. Growing up, we didn’t have television in the house and my parents had strict rules on internet usage. I think my parents were very intentional about trying to steer me and my siblings away from these negative influences. YET, I still remember being a tween and having that immense pressure to buy and own certain things just to “fit in” with my peers or be “beautiful” or “cool”. Really the whole system is messed up… tragically, it’s hard to imagine that there will ever be a solution to this.

    • Hi other Hannah 🙂 I think you hit the nail on the head. One of the toughest things about combating this is that no matter how much we talk to our kids about marketing messages and limit their TV influence, that can all go out the window if the other kids around them pressure them. I was a pretty lonely kid and I tried for a long time to fit in with the people around me, even though I knew deep in my heart that I wasn’t really interested in any of the stuff they were. Loneliness can be a powerful motivator, and if you don’t have friends “rejecting” the destructive marketing with you, it’s REALLY hard (especially as a teenager) to stand alone against that. And it’s tough to know how to respond to that as a parent or a teacher.

    • I think it is interesting to point out that many of the adults reflecting back can remember that our parents never spoiled us or gave into any materialistic pressure. So why are these same adults, who were not spoiled, creating spoiled brats for children. Why do parents give in and buy all kinds of expensive items and the latest technology or game for their children?

      Before, any child that wanted to buy a toy or game had to work to earn the money to buy what they wanted. Growing up, I worked to earn money so that I could have money to spend. We mowed lawns and did lawn maintenance around the neighborhood for $15 per acreage. Earning around $30 a week, I understand that things I wanted to buy had a price. I learned to value what I had much more because of it.

      Now, children are given everything they want just because they believe they deserve it. No one should ever be that privileged. We are creating such a spoiled generation. No one will ever learn how to work for what they want.

      Parents, please make your children earn what they get!

  5. Unfortunately not only is this a growing issue, but it has been building for decades now with the introduction of media in the home. As I grew up as a kid, I wanted to make sure I had the same toys as some of the other kids so I could join in, in their group at recess. I wanted to fit in, and ended up being a part of many groups because I had to constantly adjust myself based on whether I had something or not. But what made it really bad was when I got into high school as a pre-teen and didn’t feel great walking down the hall because I didn’t have the same clothes as the people I played sports with. So I ended up only being their friends when we played sports because I happened to be good at the sport. Was I their friend when I walked down those halls? No, more like an acquaintance.

    What makes this horrendous is that no one should be bullied or left out just because their parents don’t make enough to buy them the expensive items. I think schools and the media need to open up the tween environment and make our public places safer by advocating for open-ness rather than having these closed circles of categories – where if you have such and such you fit.

    I feel like our social classes have become blurred and are re-emerging in the marketing and advertising of material goods. Rather than being labelled as middle class or upper class based on your social status, you are now judged and labelled as such based on your material goods which then designates your social status.

    Some great tips however on how to reduce some of it.

  6. I remember when I was in high school in Ontario, I found that it was difficult to fit into some of the groups because we were sorted out based on interests, and popularity. Those who were popular had their own massive group and then everyone else either split up in terms of interests or clubs, or hung out in their un-labelled almost non-existent groups.

    I moved between a few groups, basing my friends on my current interests and who I got along with. I actually considered myself lucky because I was on talking/friendly terms with some of the girls who were popular because we played soccer together. Other people I didn’t even noticed and when I did I often wondered if they ever wished they had the skills of others or material gains like others. I often thought that they’d have more friends if they had more of this or that, and this made me really sad.

    But did I step out of line to talk to them? Not often enough. Why? Because I felt this pressure to fit where I was and I didn’t want to do anything to change where I fit. I was comfortable. I worked hard to obtain the things I needed to have the standing I had.

    Unfortunately there is this stratum in the tween/ pre-teen world and it’s only getting worse.

  7. yes agree with both Hannah and Nina, our generation is saturated with images and there is no where to escape this sensory overload, now it is getting worse with our portable computers, ipads, phones in front of our faces all the time, opening up dialogue as Francesca suggested would be a simple but pivotal way of changing the way children view ads… yes they are like sponges and absorb everything because they are smart, and if parents tell them the truth, they have the ability to make their own decisions when it comes to TV and the media… go girls and women!!

  8. Marketers love children! Kids know exactly how to guilt their parents into anything and it doesn’t matter how you grew up, you will still do more for your children and want to “give them the things you didn’t have” when you were little. As much as marketers will push their products and kids will find ways to get their parents to by them, we, as parents, will always find an excuse as to why or children need the latest Disney toy or playset. I have been on both sides of this and my children always win. Marketing companies can say that there is a science to it, but there isn’t. It’s just good old greed,envy and lust kicking in from deep inside our brains.

  9. Teaching children/tweens about how the advertising industry works is a great way to get them to be less affected by the advertisements. I intend to try this with my son who will fall into the tween category in the next few months. The only thing about children is that as AJ Best writes above, children who do not have the latest and greatest items seem to be picked on more than those that do. My son was recently teased at school for wearing shoes from Kmart. With him growing so quickly, buying expensive shoes is simply not an option. My son likes the shoes and yet this boy was relentless about trying to make him feel bad about wearing Kmart shoes.
    It’s a status symbol for kids as well as adults, owning these designer brand items. I have friends who save up for months just to buy an expensive watch and drive an expensive car, but will eat ramen for dinner because they have spent all their money. But outwardly, they are living the dream. I feel like that is the future of these tweens if they are not educated properly. Humans are greedy by nature and with celebrities taking on a more human approach to their fans (reality tv, twitter etc) and having a direct dialogue to their fans, perhaps it makes the dream of money and power a little more realistic?

  10. Marketing strategies targeting tweens are undoubtedly being improvised and there is a drastic increase in the expenditure related to their wants and needs. You are absolutely right that for business owners, this target audience is the jackpot. Not only they are well funded, but the urge to be considered as ‘adults’ make them quite vulnerable for all sorts of manipulative tactics. I can literary feel this phenomenon overtaking my younger brother as he too seems to be greatly effected by this trend . He not only aggressively claims for things he doesn’t even need, but shockingly, my parents seem to comply to his demands. Personally I believe that marketers have a full right to maximize their profits, but manipulating young minds to buying their products is not the correct way.

  11. This is something as a parent I struggle with. Its hard to look at your kids know what they face in terms of bullies and other pressures and send them out there to face it all.

    Today’s marketers know this and uses this against parents. Children feel the need to fit in with their peers and the pressure is immense . Parents are fighting a losing battle against these huge marketing machines. How can you compete as parent with a low to medium income with the wealthier parents who are buying all the fancy things. You try as a parent to instill the right values, but kids are being influenced just as much by their peers. The change I think has to be societal. The marketers on their part need to stop playing dirty and we need to clean up our act on a whole!

  12. I definitely agree that tweens are very powerful consumers. My daughter is now fourteen and is still susceptible to materialism due to peer pressure but as a tween, she took advertisements very seriously and believe for example that if I played the lottery on a rollover weekend I would have a good chance of winning or she would ask me what I would you do if I had this or that product or what I would you do if I was in this or that scenario (from an advert).

    I’m just glad that when she was that impressionable she wasn’t at the school she’s at now where the parents can afford a lot more than I can.

  13. Part of me feels it is too late, we’ve gone too far down the path to stop it and that kids these days are on their own level, ever so steadily slipping from parental influence.

    Once upon a time people had children to tend to crops, as a labor force; everyone had a role. With the industrial revolution and factorization kids were moved into factories and then child labor laws took them out. Parents worked to provide and kids went to school, then became “latchkey children” – and the TV became the baby-sitter, and now it’s smartphones and video games. Kids don’t have conversations anymore, they rarely even have relationships – accept via SnapChat, Instagram or through their gaming systems. A child’s guidance system is no longer programed by the parents, but by friends, society, commercials and trends. Occasionally you see a family who has succeeded in keeping technology out of the hands of their kids, but it’s a resentful process and one that is quickly rebelled as soon as a child reaches the age of emancipation or adulthood. Kids thrive on connection and acceptance, being different or separated from their peers makes them a standout and prone to judgement and/or bullying, in their eyes the only way to be “in the know” and be “cool” and accepted is to have access to all the latest trends. My step-daughter admitted yesterday that when she wakes up in the morning she checks the Instagram accounts of the popular girls to see what they are wearing so she can be sure to wear similar styles. This drives her purchasing choices on a daily basis.

    I just opened my mail yesterday to a TIME magazine cover with the smartphone “tattooed” to the inside of a wrist. Soon the days will be gone when we “take away” our child’s devices in hopes of setting boundaries. Devices will be implanted on and in us as constant streaming access to our world – the good, the bad and the ugly. It is the kids who are running things, not us… I knew that when I was 15 and made my mom drop me off a block away from school so I wouldn’t be seen in our old car, but could rather catch up with my friends and look “cool” when I arrived. I got my first job when I was 15 and with my first check, headed to my favorite clothing store and changed my wardrobe to “fit in.” Kids are smart as hell these days. My step daughter had created her own Facebook account and another for her BF, whose mom forbid her from having one, all when she was 9 years old.

  14. I have been through the tween “must buy everything” phase with my daughter. Thankfully, at 16 she began to be come out the other side of the materialism tunnel. The thing that really made a difference was when she had to get a job and start paying for her own purchases. Up until 16 we make it a policy to basically support our children, but as soon as they’re old enough to get a job, they’re expected to do so. When you’ve worked to earn that money, you think a lot harder about blowing it on lip gloss or a new pair of sunglasses.
    As for the marketers who prey upon tweens, who can blame them? Why wouldn’t you focus on them – they’re a gold mine. I think the responsibility here falls to parents who need to learn to say no. “No, you can’t have $20 to go to the mall. No, I can’t give you money for an outing with your friends unless you mow the lawn, rake the leaves etc. “ When we take the time to teach our children the value of money, along with responsible spending habits, then all the marketers in the world won’t be able to take advantage of them.

  15. Very enlightening article Francesca! I’m well aware of this new age group called “tweens” but is was interesting to learn about the phsycological and contextual reasons behind why marketers have targeted this age group so aggressively. Peer pressure is a huge factor and even more powerful for girls it seems. I’ve always been blown away by the hysteria that young girls demonstrate for the latest boy band or Justin Beiber!

  16. Francesca his post was full of thought provoking content! The part that stands out to me the most is the suggestions at the end. As a society we tend to identify and amplify the problem without offering solutions. I think you’re on to something when you encourage parents to facilitate healthy conversation around advertising, images, and food. That’s actually a parent’s job: to help children analyze what they experience not limit their children’s experiences. I have a 5 year old step-daughter and I encourage her to ask questions to everyone but especially me. I answer them as honestly as I can while allowing her to tell me how what I say makes her feel. Too many people think that their children miraculously develop personalities and opinions at 16 so they don’t know who they are raising or what kind of person they have raised until it’s almost too late.

    I honestly don’t see a problem with targeting “tweens” for merchandise. Just like I don’t see a problem targeting children, teens, boys, girls, women, men, single women, married me, etc. Everyone has needs and desires, and we all want to be pandered to in some way. It strokes our egos and it gives us a sense of belonging to a larger group of similarly situated people. A lot of the things I love are a result of advertising, and I wouldn’t know that I love those things had I not been exposed to them.

    Parents have a responsibility to engage with their children about their needs and desires and not leave the “raising” to the media or to the education system. With this information about how companies are targeting “tweens,” parents should be more vigilant in making sure their children are secure in their personalities, bodies, needs, and desires..

    • Anjee, I agree with you here. The best skills with which we can arm our kids? The capacity to look at situations critically, to make informed choices, and to ask questions. I’m a realist when it comes to advertising and marketing – it pays for much our media programming in the US and I appreciate that and would rather that our government not be the sponsor of media content (although I am rather fond of some of the BBC programming… :-)). So, if marketing is a fact of life that I’m willing to live with, then perhaps we can take a two-pronged approach: encourage more responsible marketing, and encourage more informed response to that marketing.

  17. Tween marketing as we all know a popular shopping stop for the tweens. It is gaining popularity day by day. But is it really worth? I am mother of two children one is 5 years old and the other one is 8 years old. Everything they watch on TV becomes a fantasy and they want things right and then. I love my children but I never wish to spoil them. Today kids are different; they don’t want things because they like them but because other children have these things and this develops a feeling of jealousy. This might seems cute in this age, but it can develop a very wrong habit in future. Like me there are many parents who might be in such dilemma, but in future we will see more and more things emerging out that our children might want. But they are children not adults!

  18. In the 1990s, Peggy Orenstein wrote SchoolGirls: Young Women, Self-Esteem, and the Confidence Gap. In it, she focused on middle school children, girls in particular, and their perception of gender. She was inspired by a 1991 report showing that girl’s confidence declines considerably during the tween years (although before we called them tweens…) and sought to identify the sources through ethnographic/journalistic inquiry. She found that multiple factors influenced these girls on their gender journey (her words, not mine), from societal norms, to media, to relationships with significant adults, to school curriculum. The study is a good reminder that there is no direct cause and effect here, rather a host of factors shaping children’s perceptions of themselves and their confidence in their own decisions.

    Two thoughts:

    1. Orenstein’s work, and the study that preceded it, provides further research basis for the focus on tweens, in particular tween girls, in marketing. The lack of confidence produces behavior related to seeking assurance from external sources, and it makes it difficult to branch out and be unique for it is difficult to be different when you aren’t sure if you can make good decisions.

    2. I’d love to see this work updated, to see how things have changed, if at all. I look at what is externally different – we now have stores in the US targeted directly at tweens (Justice for example) as well as anti-bullying campaigns in most public schools, often backed by anti-bullying legislation. Have these things made an impact?

  19. When I was a tween, I can remember looking through magazines and at ads on TV and just marveling at how beautiful and thin the women were in them. And I wanted that. Those ads made me develop the beginnings of an eating disorder. I became very very thin and even passed out, which was the turning point of how I viewed myself. I told friends who supported me and today I am much better. But from this I firmly believe that something needs to be done about advertising towards tweens and even teens. It’s a terrible thing when this happens to a girl, and I hope it doesn’t happen to more girls.

  20. Like with a lot of things I’ve said so far, I think this is in the parent’s hands most of all. What a tween spends is 100% up to the parent. It’s great to teach your kids the effect of advertising, but even so, kids are prone to ‘want’ lots of things. We barely watched TV growing up and I always knew we didn’t have much money in our family, but I STILL had my want it now moments. However, my parents very rarely gave into it. I think that a big step is teaching kids the value of money. I think this is something that kids from poorer families (poor enough to be less of a marketing target for a 150$ barbie set, even)grasp more, because kids from wealthier families don’t watch their parents on a daily basis having to choose based on price.

    • You are completely right! Parents are the ones buying these items for their teens and preteens. Parents have the ability to say no, and parents should choose to say no more often. Have children learn the value of money. Growing up in a lower middle class family, I quickly learned not to ask for anything because the answer was always “no, we can’t afford it”. That is why I worked at the age of 10. I quickly learned the value of money and how to truly define and decide what a “want” is. Parents are only letting their children down when they cater to their every want. Growing up in a “poorer family” was a blessing. I just wish that children, teens, and preteens now had the same blessings.

  21. I grew up differently then these girls and tweens are today. I never watched all the gossip things, or had to have the best cell phone, or the clothing, any of that. I liked what I liked and that was that. I was a hard tween to market to because I spent my years, 10 to 20 wearing over sized hoodies and men’s t shirts. They got me to feel bad about my body but they never got me to buy crap I didn’t need. The problem with today is, this media bullying goes hand in hand. Not only are girls and tweens, teens and everything in between feeling horrible about their looks and bodies, but they are being told they mean less when they don’t have the best phone, purse, pants, shoes… and so on. It is sad and sick and parents should really take a stank over it.

  22. Yes – anxiety on the parent’s part fuels this too.

    I remember growing up in the 1980’s, clothes cost alot compared with now, unless they were so cheap that they felt to pieces. We as a family weren’t that well off, even though my parents both worked decent jobs and we had our own home. Going into town for clothes was a yearly thing. maybe an extra trip was made if new trainers were needed or a winter coat. But really, we were bought what we needed, and that was it. I felt pressure at school, because there were alot of kids who had the latest brand names. Some of these children/teens were living in council houses, perhaps a single parent, and both then and now I have no idea how it was afforded. We are talking about £80 for a sweatshirt – thirty years ago! There certainly weren’t the same benefits back then for having children.

    Now I see it was perhaps what was prioritised by the parents. Some would see this type of clothing and gadgets as vital in their child’s wellbeing, somehow. They would sacrifice other things. I have a tween neice and she and her friends are always shopping in cheap shops, buying Primark clothes and Poundland make-up, I don’t think there is the same stigma for this type of thing as there used to be.

  23. This is a very important subject and it’s also one that doesn’t get much attention, either. Tweens, (especially girls) are showed that if they buy something they will be better than they were before in some way. These impressionable kids eat it up, and they will buy it or have their parents buy it for them. I know that as a kid, anything that would now seem gimmicky to me now would be a “must have” item. With girls specifically, they’re marketed items that will make them pretty and things like that, and most girls are made to believe that’s where their worth lays.

  24. It truly never occurred to me that this was such an issue – that advertising/ marketing agencies where taking advantage of children’s vulnerability or that children were responding to it in such a strong way. It seems so obvious after reading the article that I don’t know how it didn’t occur to me before. It’s actually quite scary the control that the media can have over people. I started working at 13 and have always had it drilled into me that ‘money doesn’t grow on trees’ so I’ve always been somewhat sensible with money, but I still do remember the social pressures of wanting to ‘fit-in’ and spending huge amounts of money on brands or the latest product (I think fancy, overpriced stationary was the ‘cool’ thing at school). But then most children don’t have anything else to spend their well-earned money on, so I’m not surprised they are targeted. I also remember having friends at school that didn’t work and they had no concept over money what-so-ever; their parents bought them all the latest games, brands etc. They were considered the ‘cool’ kids, because they had all the ‘cool’ stuff. I guess the parents’ don’t think about the impact this could be having on the child?
    I agree with Maddie, this issue is not something that get’s much attention. Can we assume that most parents don’t know the full extent of the issue?

  25. I agree with Kelly, it is very scary the amount of control advertisers have over our children. Isn’t it strange that just by a viewing a commercial, a child determines that they need something and as parents, many of us purchase these things for them without giving it much thought?

    The tip in the blog post about balancing screen time with other activities is a very good plan to put into action. So many children today are left alone with the television or computer being used as a babysitter. These poor kids are being constantly bombarded with advertising. As the blog post states, these “tweens” are so vulnerable and eager to fit in that they can be easily manipulated. Parents need to set strict guidelines regarding the amount of time children can view television and use the computer. Advertising aimed toward tweens is not going to stop, so we are the ones who have to take steps to limit their exposure to it.

    I do believe that most parents have no idea their child is being targeted in such a sneaky way. We need to teach them as early as possible that they don’t need everything they see to be “cool”. We also need to refuse to buy things just because they’ve seen a commercial and “need” it, or because “everyone else has one”.

  26. I find today that tweens not only are allowed access to money and every imaginable trinket and trapping, but that they have somehow been promoted to a ‘demi-god’ status.
    At nine years old, I had no say in the family budget or the rate of my meager allowance. I wasn’t allowed to wear make-up, much less buy it. Oh, and I certainly didn’t have a cell phone.

    I think maybe the problem isn’t all media driven. Maybe parents are just as much to blame for buckling to the peer pressure to have their child seen as ‘adequate’ to the other parents. You know, little Betsy has to have a phone equal to or better than little Susie’s phone.

    In their elevated status, children today are allowed to demand what they want, regardless of price, relevance to needs, or even decency (clothing and make-up). I think it would be extremely helpful to society as a whole if parents would take their place as supervisors, guardians and yes, disciplinarians, once again.

  27. To be honest i did not even know tween marketing existed until i read this blog post! And after having read i realise it is a very real and worrying issue… just another reminder that the people in control of this world are not good people… :-/ Good tips on how to avoid tween marketing and thank you for bringing it to my awareness…

  28. The effect marketing has on tweens is disturbing. In fact, I found myself growing angry as I read the article. After all, I have eight kids–I don’t want them making decisions based on what Big Jim the Marketer thinks is best for his pocketbook. I want my kids thinking for themselves and making decisions based on their moral and financial intelligence. Unfortunately, in the tween years those “intelligences” aren’t as strongly developed as they (hopefully) will be in later years. Sadly, those intelligences aren’t that evident in many adults, either, who similarly fall for the gotta-have-it lures of marketing. (Excuse me while I gape at an eye cream commercial and covet the effects. Okay, I’m back.)

    Then you switched over to what parents can do to help combat the effects of this out-of-control marketing. Kudos! I think–and one of your studies supports this–parents are a huge influence in helping tweens get through these issues, as well as others, in their in-between and teen years.

    Still, some of the commenters before me revealed that many parents help their kids fit in to avoid the very real issues of bullying and the insecurities that go along with those years. I remember that well–I was a teen in the early 90s when bangs stood six inches off the forehead, and I didn’t own a can of hairspray. I tried hard to remain invisible throughout high school, and was relatively successful.

    Is there a solution? I don’t know. We homeschool, and our kids roll their eyes at trends and materialism. They don’t watch mainstream television. Their favorite shows are from the I Love Lucy and Leave it to Beaver era. And we talk about EVERYTHING! That’s not possible for every family, nor is it the right solution for every family–homeschooling, I mean; the communication is crucial for every family. I guess as parents, teachers, and other non-marketing influencers, we simply have to continue to build up kids for who they are, not what they own.

    Thanks for the great parenting helps you offered–they are very valuable indeed.

  29. I think the “tween” thing was becoming a concept as I hit that age, but I didn’t fit the image… total tomboy. I never felt excluded or uncool for that, either. I overhear conversations between 12-year-old girls today and thank god my only child is a boy, the tween world is absolutely terrifying for me!

  30. Hmmm this article is interesting but I don’t quite agree with the proposed guidelines in it. I have studied Children’s Psychology since I am a teacher. Moreover I have spent hours talking to my parents and asking for their opinion on many subjects regarding kids.
    I have learned 2 main thing: the first one is that until 6-7 years of age your kid should be your “Slave”. I mean that he/she should not choose for him/herself. He/she should be guided and forced to do what it has to do to become one amazing person. After that, after you, as a parent imprint in it the basic, than a child can be your friend. For that first 7 years you have to teach the child to have something that we, in Bulgaria, call a “culture of the wishes”. That means that one can restrain one-self from simply wanting something for no good reason.

    I strongly believe that if you can achieve to teach that to a child, no amount of advertising would make him or her buy something just because it was shown on TV or in a magazine or so on.

  31. Wow – what an interesting and astounding article and so many inspired comments that follow… I particularly am interested in the idea that children, in addition to the onslaught of marketing, are pressured and even bullied into “needing” these products. Thinking about the research you’ve presented, the discomfort of being pubescent and vulnerable makes the ease of buying acceptance that much more appealing (and I don’t think it’s a feeling that leaves us when puberty ends). That’s the appeal of quick-fix anything schemes! The marketers know how to invade schools and playgrounds, how to make their product – in a sense – go viral. That viral product concerns me most… How do we tell a child they can’t have something that makes them fit in? That everyone else has? Do we ostracize them to make a point?

    This is definitely a topic of great concern, and one that warrants the research and time you’ve put in to it. Thank you for providing ways to avoid it. I especially liked the idea of challenging the advertisements, of asking children how they felt and reacted to it. That made me think that maybe if they begin deconstructing advertisement at an early age they will be less susceptible as they grow and maybe those viral products won’t go so very viral. Limiting screen time is an admirable idea as well, but it feels less realistic and more short term. A child who is denied something inevitably will become more curious about it, right? Plus, the Internet and screens themselves are becoming more and more constant (think smartphones), and we have to be able to coexist with them, challenge them, think critically about them. Nothing will ever replace the goodness of going outside or reading a book, but they may be more and more integrated with those screens, so let’s prepare to better challenge, rather than avoid, them.

  32. What’s funny is, I noticed this in myself just a few years ago. Growing up, part of the time, we didn’t have a TV. And then when we actually got one, it was just basic channels; my sibling and I didn’t watch much of it. And we hardly asked for anything! We didn’t know what the new, “cool” things were and we didn’t really care (we could always just borrow something from a friend!). For things like Christmas and birthdays, we asked for things like books or a bike.

    But later on, we got premium cable + internet. Oh boy. We got sucked in and before you know it, we were asking for all sorts of things ALL THE TIME. The best new clothes, the latest toys, new technologies, the lists never ended! There almost wasn’t a single commercial or ad that passed by where we didn’t say,”Hey, I want that!”

    At the same time,my parents didn’t give in too often even though we started asking for a lot more stuff. My parents were a bit smarter in refusing. Many of my friends’ got a lot of what they wanted (new clothes every week,new shoes, new bags, etc) and I was in awe! They asked and their parents just went along. It made me think their parents didn’t have much control over the family.

  33. This was a great article to read and relate to. When I was 10, just in 5th grade, puberty came. I was the first one in my class, and I was confused, scared, and already learning to be insecure with my body and looks. My chest was fuller than most girls, which hasn’t changed since becoming an adult, and I had to constantly watch how I dressed. I grew up in a very religious household, and my mom stressed “modesty is the best policy”. In fact one of the most embarrassing days in my life was when my summer camp counselor made me go change because the shirt I was wearing was “way too tight”, and then to go one to say how much bigger my chest was than the other girls. I was so embarrassed, and I started to resent my body. At first boys would pick on me because of my looks, an then when I got older the rude, sexual comments, came and it was 10 times worse.
    Kids are learning at a much earlier age about sex, puberty, and the world. In my opinion there need to be more censoring when it comes to the fashion market. Especially, for the “tween” stage in life. Just because you are 11 or 12 doesn’t mean you can dress like Britney Spears from the music video “hit me baby one more time” and look cute. This is a topic that’s really close to my heart, and I have many times within my church, and other seminars have spoken about modesty and how to try not to conform to this world. I truly hope that the world’s market will change, but until it does I believe it’s up to us to encourage our youth that you are beautiful and accepted just by being you…not trying to be someone else.

  34. This is really happening one way or another. Parents may be feeling more pressure because of the impact of the industry to their kids but they shouldn’t be. I think that the real challenge here is how to make parents don’t feel any pressure in the current market trend and teach their kids not to be very materialistic about things. That just because it’s trending in the market today, they should have it. No. It’s enough for the kids to learn to learn to get only what they need. Maybe this way it will make them think creatively on how they can make money for themselves and buy what they want with their own money.

  35. From a business point of view, it’s smart.. more than smart in fact. Tweens want and get whatever they want and have become more materialistic. Ask any 10 year old what they want as a Christmas gift and more than likely it with be an electronic of some sort – cell phone, computer, tablet.. It all seems so wrong to me that these children are skipping over a point in their life that they will never get to experience again. Being a child is amazing and growing up is not anything to write home about.

  36. I really appreciated the research that went along with this post – it really tied this together for me as I read it!
    I think one of my favorite take away points was “Talk to your kids about how advertising works and what advertisers are trying to accomplish.” While my daughter’s a little too young for full, real conversations, I already noticed the kinds of commercials and images that catch her attention. I also appreciated the point of being intentional about teaching kids to be responsible consumers – I recently saw a friend list out things she wanted to teach her teenage sons before they left home, and she included a lot of planning and critical thinking skills that went along with daily life tasks like basic grocery shopping / meal planning. It made me think about how a lot of that can be done along the way even at an earlier age.
    And as for the encouragement to “monitor your own media habits and buying habits” I almost feel guilty already – a lot of days I get lonely and resort to the TV, my phone, working on the computer to fill moments. So I could do better at monitoring!

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