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Capitalism's Childrenby Daniel Johnson, Deputy Executive Editor
Children are the demographic most heavily targeted by advertisers and are society's most vulnerable members.
(CALGARY, Alberta) - While the U.S. has only 4.5% of the world’s population, America’s children consume 45% of global toy production. Sales to the four- to twelve-year-old market was $6.1 billion in 1989. Today, it’s more like $30 billion, an increase of nearly 500%. Teen spending is even greater—$170 billion/year.
Children are the demographic most heavily targeted by advertisers and the most vulnerable. Children as young as two can identify brand names and in the U.S., one quarter of preschool children have TVs in their room where they are bombarded by up to 40,000 commercial messages per year (an average of more than a hundred a day).
The average child spends about three and a half hours per day in front of the TV and American businesses spend an estimated $15 billion/year on advertising and marketing to those children, who then make about three thousand requests a year for specific products and services. By the first grade, children can identify up to two hundred brands.
Every parent is woefully aware of this phenomenon, but seemingly helpless. When shopping at the supermarket there is the incessant demand for specific breakfast cereals, etc. If a family goes out to eat, there is a similar persistent demand that they go to McDonald’s or Wendy’s, etc. Capitalism in action.
As New York Times food columnist Mark Bittman writes: “Every parent of a child born in the United States since 1950 also knows the difficulty of getting that kid to eat a breakfast of real food. This is not a ‘natural’ inclination—no one is born craving Froot Loops or Count Chocula—but one resulting from a bombardment of marketing.” One in five American children are now clinically obese.
Sugary foods are as addictive as nicotine or cocaine which is what businesses want—hooked consumers. A study by The Environmental Working Group has shown that there are 44 cereals that contain more sugar in a cup than three Chips Ahoy cookies and that a cup of Kellogg’s Honey Smacks contains more sugar than a Hostess Twinkie. General Mills’ Yoplait brand yogurt (once seen as a health food) now has twice as much sugar per serving as General Mills’ marshmallow cereal Lucky Charms. Sugar is everywhere; I noticed it recently as an ingredient in a can of tomato soup.
(See The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food” If you have young children, this is a must read!)
These few facts above outline the case for a form of child abuse.
In 1990 he published his first (and so far, only) book: Practical History: A guide to Will and Ariel Durant’s “The Story of Civilization” (Polymath Press, Calgary) Newly appointed as the Deputy Executive Editor in August 2011, he has been writing exclusively for Salem-News.com since March 2009 and, as of summer 2012, has published more than 210 stories. View articles written by Daniel Johnson
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