Recently my son’s little four-year-old girl friend arrived at our house wearing a very hip and stylish Hannah Montana ensemble. I, of course, have a boy, and have not been privy to the Hannah craze. I was surprised that this little tyke was completely informed and up to speed on all things in Montanaville. When I spoke to another friend who has six-year-old twin girls, he said that they know everything there is to know about the show, and dressing like the lead character, well, duh… of course they do.


I remember when my son was born, how outfits with Winnie the Pooh and Mickey Mouse were given to me as gifts. I also remember returning some of them determined to be that mom who didn’t buy into marketing ploys. Instead I preferred classic and traditional over obnoxious and commercialized. As he grew, I refused to buy Sesame Street diapers and anything Elmo. I picked zoo animals as his bedroom theme over Buzz Lightyear or Clifford the Big Red Dog. I wanted him to be stimulated by creatures of the sea, dinosaurs or bugs found in books, flashcards and the many excursions we made outdoors. It was my opinion that all of the marketing and advertising wouldn’t affect him if I didn’t let it, and our house would not be full of TV characters and movie images.

Now that he’s three, I have to admit that Speed McQueen and Diego do tend to dominate his world. He has his favourite Cars t-shirt, toothpaste, PJs, and bed spread, along with his Diego light-up runners, rescues-pack and adventurer socks. Suddenly these things represent cool, neat, and fun. He will dig through his drawers to find his Wingo t-shirt and go looking in the laundry basket for his Nemo swim trunks. At no point did I tell him or show him that there is a connection between his clothing, his feelings and these personified images. He learned it quickly and completely, the way any marketing master would have planned as he imagined selling to kids and selling big.

At the moment my biggest concern is the Bob the Builder underpants he wants. Next year I imagine it will be Spiderman and Shrek, then Harry Potter or Luke Skywalker. Still, I have a few years before it is anything I won’t completely understand or something I’ll utterly disagree with. And yet when he becomes a teenager, how can my hopes for endangered animals or real life heroes compete with celebrities and multimillion dollar advertising budgets that highlight speed, money, rebellion and all things hip? Or in the case of my daughter (still only 10 months), beauty, glitz, glam and sex appeal.


These and other images are what our children are seeing and imprinting as as an acceptable representation of fashion in today’s society. Their suggestive posturing and barely-there clothing convey distinct message, and our kids are buying into it. It seems that as they move from toddler to teen, their focus becomes being the image and then becoming the person. What I was taught was to be your own person and create a unique image.

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Tags: aguilera, beckham, bob, builder, buzz, celebrity, christina, clifford, david, dog, More…elmo, hannah, hilton, kid, kids, lightyear, luke, marketing, mcqueen, mickey, montana, mouse, paris, pooh, sesame, shrek, skywalker, speed, spiderman, street, the, to, winnie, worship

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Comment by Kerry Sauriol on September 6, 2008 at 7:09pm
Paris looks like she lost a contact lens.
I have a 4 year old who poses like a model and asks if she looks fat in her swim suit...all coy and cute like...where do they LEARN THIS STUFF.

And then I see the chubby kid today getting BRATZ (WHORZ) for her birthday..and you gotta wonder.
Comment by Katrina in AZ on September 6, 2008 at 5:36pm
So there...... Watch out they even have "french cut" panites for wee girls now too. What ever happen to rompers and underroos!
I am thankful that my daughter doesn't get so involved in these pop culture icons. She just turned 7 and still likes dressing up like ariel or a "bride".
we have NOT(not of this world) shirts for my son. and he is only allowed (by me and his dad) to wear the polo shirts , solid color tees or the school spirit shirts to school all others are for after school or weekend. Plus to help out the TV thing. 0 tv during the week end friday afternoon they get to pick a movie and veg out. Fun Friday at Home.
Comment by Michelle on September 6, 2008 at 4:19pm
It is amazing how quickly the kids catch on to this stuff.... even PBS is in on it. I cut off the cable for the simple reason of I was tired of being "bad" guy by restricting the shows and time they were watching. Don't get me wrong we still watch Bob, Hannah, and High School Musical but we will rent the DVD and intensionally watch it, not just sit in front of the t.v. for the next show to come on.

This is working well for us. My DD doesn't ask for the latest and greatest toy that is being advertised on Disney or Nick, because she does not see it. If we get character clothing it is either a gift or a super reduced price. ;) So that is how we are combating the marketers, oh yeah, and staying out of the toy isle at Target.

Michelle
www.michellehgp.com
Comment by Morningside Mom on September 6, 2008 at 8:32am
I just posted about this topic myself. We just went to see the new Star Wars movie with my 5 yo son. I was horrified by how over sexualized the female characters were - tube tops, enormous chests, T&A everywhere. And a LOT of violence. While some could argue that maybe this movie was not meant for kids my age, well they sure are marketing it for his age: toys recommended for ages 4 and up, star wars happy meal toys... Anyway, I hear you. This stuff is everywhere. So I can't exactly protect him from it. But when do I start the conversation when these images are bombarding him already? I will have to get my head around it and not panic. Afterall, my husband was raised on the image of Princess Leia the slave girl and he turned out just "fine", right? Oy. Head in hands.

Caroline
http://morningsidemom.wordpress.com/
Comment by Angeline Duran Piotrowski on September 5, 2008 at 11:48pm
I like Paris' hair that way. Do you think she will have the good sense to be embarrassed by herself when she is 90? Ah well...

About media influence of my children. My oldest is only 4 1/2 and he is a total media junkie. He knows how to use a computer. He can dial daddy on the cell phone. He watches tv as much as he can get away with. He just spent his saved up allowance (yes he gets one so he can learn to be responsible instead of begging me for everything he wants) on two Star Wars action figures. Yep, all the scary stuff. But I don't worry about it. Because is brilliant (of course), responsible, interesting, loving, fun, creative, has interesting unique ideas about the world, has great problem solving skills, and he has excellent guidance from two parents who have good sense. I know it is futile to even imagine that I can shelter him from the world and I don't want to. As situations arise we do, and will continue to, talk about them and hopefully guide his character development through the experiences. It is called "street smarts" not "keep your head in the sand smarts". I know my kids are going to be fine. Just fine. Because they will know how to live in the real world, Paris Hilton, endangered animals and all.

Angeline
www.MomstyleNews.com
www.MommyMythBuster.com
Comment by All Adither on September 5, 2008 at 10:34pm
OMG, that picture of Paris is...sweaty.

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