This little kiddy went to market

Tracey Sorenson

Citation: Alive Australia, Summer 2010, p. 81

Kids these days are born into a marketplace, not a family or a community. From the moment they open their newborn eyes, they're looking at brands.

An army of psychologists and social anthropologists advise marketers how to recruit tiny hearts and minds, so that by the time they get to school they exhibit brand loyalty and addictions to unhealthy levels of salt and sugar. Their toys are no longer toys but "concepts": having one begets the need for another and another.

In This little kiddy went to market, Sharon Beder and her co-authors catalogue, in minutely researched detail, how corporations have turned childhood into one big commercial opportunity.

Beder cites one example, the Girls Intelligence Agency (CIA), in which girls are signed up to spy on the consumer habits of their friends on behalf of corporations such as Disney, Mattel and Nestlé. CIA agents set up spy cams in their bedrooms so their friends' interactions with new products can be monitored.

Schools, once relatively free of commercial influence, are the new playgrounds of corporations. Sponsorship of school activities promotes brand recognition, while educational malerials are often thinly veiled corporate PR. Donations to schools-—in the form of portions of profits from their products-—from such companies as McDonald's, KFC and Domino's Pizza encourage children to pester their families to buy more fast food.

Australian high school students can work pan time at McDonald's and have it count as pan of their school grades. The Certificate II in Retail Operations, which can count toward university entrance, includes study in areas such as interacting with customers and balancing a cash register.

Does all this matter? Is it such a big deal that kids like certain brands and their textbooks are stamped with corporate logos? Beder argues that it matters enormously, because there is a basic conflict between the needs and interests of corporations and those of children. Children's health is being jeopardized by fatty, salty, sugary food. They are being conditioned to be hyperconsumers buying ever-greater piles of stuff they don't really need, much of which ends up in the landfill.

This book is a must-read for anyone uneasy about the corporate takeover of children's lives. It is a call to resist the lure of global corporations and choose healthier, smarter options for our kids.

Tracy Sorensen is a freelance writer and discriminating consumer.

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Professor Sharon Beder is an honorary professorial fellow at the University of Wollongong.
Sharon Beder's Publications can be found at