Children as young as 2 ½ years of age are able to go online.
• The most popular young children’s sites are moderately to heavily commercialized. When rated by our test parents on a scale from 1 (not commercialized) to 5 (extremely commercialized), the 21 sites considered in this study scored a mean rating of 3.47.
• Web sites frequently tantalize children, presenting enticing options and even threats that their online creations will become inaccessible unless a purchase is made. Some sites show attractive options that invite a click, but lead to a registration form instead. Some sell a child’s prior experience – a room they’ve built for a virtual pet, for instance – back to them, using statements such as, "If you cancel your membership, then your belongings will go into storage and will be automatically retrieved when you re-subscribe."
• Most sites we observed promote the idea of consumerism. The most common technique uses a reward-for-work basis, awarding "points, coins or dollars" for success and achievement that can then be used to "buy" items such as clothing, makeup, big-screen TVs or other accessories for virtual pets or avatars.
• The games we observed vary widely in quality, in educational value, and in their developmental match with children’s abilities. Such mismatches often result in frequent cries for help.
The report offers these suggestions to help parents create a safer web-experience:
• Keep an eye on the screen. Set up the home computer in a central location so you can see what your child is doing. Lend a hand or suggest an activity that matches your child’s interests or abilities and pay attention to the directions his or her activities take.
• Be suspicious of "free" offers. As in the real world, free lunches are rare, and this is a concept children can’t understand. Don’t expect young children (and many adults) to understand the well-worn caution: "If something looks too good to be true, it probably is."
• Read before you click. Before you or your children click on the "I agree" button, scour terms-of-use agreements and privacy policies to make sure you aren’t agreeing to share information you don’t want known. At worst, publishers make such disclosures inconvenient to read and awkward, so you are tempted to click an agreement and move on. Those emotions can be amplified when you have an anxious toddler pressing you. Also, don’t download software before verifying it won’t alter your computer’s settings.
Keep in mind the motivation behind the design of each of these sites- these are commercial sites and they all want you to buy something. In some cases the pitch is cleverly hidden- but if you dig deep enough you'll find it.
The point is that you should explore the sites before your child does- and you, not the marketer, should decide if the sites are appropriate for your child.
Project Girl is "the first girl-led, arts based initiative to give girls a creative opportunity to develop and strengthen skills they need to become more critical and informed consumers of media."
Project Girl is a touring exhibit and workshop- click on the News and Events link to see upcoming tour stops.
While you are at the site spend a few minutes taking their Cool Media Test, read some of the girls' poetry and browse through the artwork. There is also a short video that looks at how our girls have been objectified by the media.
The marketing images are disturbing but the positive actions that Project Girl is making to educate and empower girls is very inspiring.
A website that encourages girls as young as 9 to embrace plastic surgery and extreme dieting in the search for the perfect figure was condemned as lethal by parents’ groups and healthcare experts yesterday.
The Miss Bimbo internet game has attracted prepubescent girls who are told to buy their virtual characters breast enlargement surgery and to keep them “waif thin” with diet pills.
Healthcare professionals, a parents’ group and an organisation representing people suffering anorexia and bulimia criticised the website for sending a dangerous message to impressionable children.
In the month since it opened the site, which is aimed at girls aged from 9 to 16, has attracted 200,000 members. Players keep a constant watch on the weight, wardrobe, wealth and happiness of their character to create “the coolest, richest and most famous bimbo in the world”. Competing against other children they earn “bimbo dollars” to buy plastic surgery, diet pills, facelifts, lingerie and fashionable nightclub outfits.
The website sparked controversy when it was introduced in France, where it attracted 1.2 million players.
Dee Dawson, the medical director of Rhodes Farm Clinic, which treats girls aged from 8 to 18 who suffer eating disorders, said: “This is as lethal as pro-anorexia websites. A lot of children will get caught up with the extremely damaging and appalling messages.”
Susan Ringwood, the chief executive of Beat, an organisation that supports those suffering eating disorders, said that the website could make girls believe that weight and body size manipulation were acceptable.
Unbelievable. Here are some targets that the game sets:
Level 7 After you broke up with your boyfriend you went on an eating binge! Now it’s time to diet . . . Your target weight is less than 132lbs
Level 9 Have a nip and tuck operation for a brand new face. You’ve found work as a plus-size model. To gain those vivacious curves, you need to weigh more than 154lbs
Level 10 Summertime is coming up and bikini weather is upon us. You want to turn heads on the beach don’t you?
Level 11 Bigger is better! Have a breast operation
Level 17 There is a billionaire on vacation . . . You must catch his eye and his love! Good luck
Pressure on children to have the latest designer clothes and computer games is
making them miserable, according to a study of modern childhood.
It concludes that the consumer society and failure to protect children from
commercial pressures is partly to blame for deteriorating mental health
among young people. Rates of depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses
have risen in the past two decades with one in ten children now suffering
from a diagnosable condition.
The report, published today by the Good Childhood Inquiry, conducted by the
charity The Children’s Society, said that children from poor backgrounds
were the main victims of con-sumerism, with many becoming distressed at the
prospect of falling behind the latest trends.
Hundreds of submissions from children showed that they felt overwhelming
pressure to keep up with trends in clothes, music and computer games.
Philip Graham, of The Institute of Child Health, London, who led the study for
the inquiry, said that parents, schools and the government should make sure
children valued who they were rather than what they had.
Bob Reitemeier, of The Children’s Society, said: “Unless we question our own
behaviour as a society we risk creating a generation who are left
unfulfilled through chasing unattainable lifestyles.”
Monday, Virginia Beach Police dropped obscenity charges stemming from two poster advertisements for Abercrombie & Fitch at Lynnhaven Mall...
Police met with City Attorney Les Lillie Monday afternoon to screen the case. Deputy Police Chief Jim Cevera said by the end of the meeting, Lillie and police decided the displays were not technically obscene.
Virginia Beach city code says obscene material must be harmful to juveniles in order to be illegal, and Cevera said the display ads "did not quite rise to that level."
Abercrombie issued a typically condescending statement:
"The marketing images in question show less skin than you see any summer day at the beach. And certainly less than the plumber working on your kitchen sink. This is an incredible over reaction by city officials that would be comical except for its potentially serious legal implications. We will pursue our legal rights aggressively and fully expect to prevail." -- Tom Lennox, Vice President of Corporate Communications.
There is nothing comical about the way Abercrombie continues to sexualize our youth. The argument about "a summer day at the beach" is nothing more than a red herring used to distract attention from the harm Abercrombie is causing.
Folks- as Abercrombie fights to remain relevant we can only expect more of the same explicit advertising (here and here). Soft-core porn is a part of their marketing DNA.
Tune in and Talk.Watch TV and movies with your daughters and sons. Read their magazines. Surf their Web sites. Ask questions. "Why is there so much pressure on girls to look a certain way?” "What do you like most about the girls you want to spend time with?" "Do these qualities matter more than how they look?" Really listen to what your kids tell you.
Question Choices. Girls who are overly concerned about their appearance often have difficulty focusing on other things. Clothes can be part of the distraction. If your daughter wants to wear something you consider too sexy, ask what she likes about the outfit. Ask if there’s anything she doesn’t like about it. Explain how clothes that require lots of checking and adjusting might keep her from focusing on school work, friends, and other activities.
Speak up.If you don't like a TV show, CD, video, pair of jeans, or doll, say why. A conversation with her will be more effective than simply saying, "No, you can’t buy it or watch it." Support campaigns, companies, and products that promote positive images of girls. Complain to manufacturers, advertisers, television and movie producers, and retail stores when products sexualize girls.
Understand. Young people often feel pressure to watch popular TV shows, listen to music their friends like, and conform to certain styles of dress. Help your daughter make wise choices among the trendy alternatives. Remind her often that who she is and what she can accomplish are far more important than how she looks.
Encourage. Athletics and other extracurricular activities emphasize talents, skills, and abilities over physical appearance. Encourage your daughter to follow her interests and get involved in a sport or other activity.
Educate.You may feel uncomfortable discussing sexuality with your kids, but it's important.Talk about when you think sex is OK as part of a healthy, intimate, mature relationship. Ask why girls often try so hard to look and act sexy. Effective sex education programs discuss media, peer, and cultural influences on sexual behaviors and decisions, how to make safe choices, and what makes healthy relationships. Find out what your school teaches.
Be real.Help your kids focus on what’s really important: what they think, feel, and value. Help them build strengths that will allow them to achieve their goals and develop into healthy adults. Remind your children that everyone’s unique and that it’s wrong to judge people by their appearance.
Model. Marketing and the media also influence adults. When you think about what you buy and watch, you teach your sons and daughters to do so, too.
Low self-esteem can create materialistic tendencies in children, according to Lan Nguyen Chaplin, an assistant marketing professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, who co-authored a new study that looked at how materialism develops in youngsters.
Chaplin and her colleague found that between the ages of 8 to 13, a child's level of self-esteem drops, in part because of physical changes. The self-conscious tweens turn to material goods to make themselves feel better. Then, surprisingly, as self-esteem rebounds by the end of high school, roughly between the ages of 16 and 18, the need for consumer goods goes down, according to the work published in this month's Journal of Consumer Research.
If a child has a stronger sense of self during these down-swings, the researchers believe, they're less likely to see material goods as the key to happiness and popularity.
"It's the strongest evidence to date that self-esteem is actually a cause of materialism; all past evidence has been correlational and thus has left open the possibility that materialism causes low self-esteem, or there's some third variable," said Knox College psychology professor Tim Kasser, who has studied materialism and values for 20 years but was not involved in Chaplin's study. What's important, he said is that their finding "opens the possibility of future interventions designed to focus on low self-esteem children and help them resist the problematic influences of consumer culture."
Experts say to raise a child's self-esteem, key in on an interest - drawing, music, sports, fantasy play, debating - interact with him and give him positive, supportive messages. But don't overdo it, either. "Don't drown him in praise, and make sure your words are genuine and honest," said Stanley Greenspan, a clinical professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at George Washington University Medical School and author of "Great Kids" (De Capo, $22.95).
There's more- click on the link at the top to read the entire story.