I have had an interesting past few days. For the last few months, a few parents from school and I have come together to organize a few events. The purpose is to raise awareness, provide support and empower parents on certain issues that can be a bit challenging to handle alone. The first event just took place last Thursday and it was a documentary screening of the film, Consuming Kids, The Commercialization of Childhood. The film was followed by a discussion and Q&A from a speaker from the film, and a leader in this movement. The speaker is Susan Linn, and she was amazing!
Wow, I am so glad people create documentaries! They rock! This film really impacted me in a way I didn’t expect. It made me understand why many of the challenges children face today such as bullying, low self-esteem, lack of identity, aggression and many other issues are present. It is all very much tied into how our children are constantly marketed to from the time they are born, all throughout their young adulthood. And the fact that the U.S. is the only industrialized nation that doesn’t have legislation about this really made me uncomfortable. Nowhere else in the world, are corporations allowed to market directly to children. We once had legislation on this, but all regulation was removed in the ’80s. Ok, I’ll stop here so that I don’t tell you about the whole film (you just have to see it yourself – it’s on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q9GAmP59QCs).
What I walked away with is that once again, I am faced with another factor that I have to regulate on my own and create some sort of balance with. It is up to us, as parents to realize what is best for our families, and how to best protect our children from whatever we believe may be detrimental to them.
Coincidentally, a few days after my event I was at a birthday party. I met a mom there that happens to be a County youth counselor for troubled children. She began speaking about what she experiences in her field on a daily basis. She began to share how she requires these children and teens to fill out a questionnaire when they are admitted. A response she repeatedly encounters on these forms is how the kids feel that they were deprived of their childhood; or never had a childhood, or it was too short for them. Many of them describe an overexposure to the world and life, and that this is mostly from media and their surrounding environments. I began to tell her about the film, and without her ever viewing the documentary, she said that she was in complete agreement with the information it provided. She felt that her experience with these children has allowed her the opportunity to see within them; to work with them; and to see deeper into the problem. I was really thankful to have met her.
The universe really works in funny ways. It was a great way to have an interactive conversation with someone that had real life experiences to share about how the commercialization of our children is affecting them. She is in the trenches of this issue.
Although we have pretty much been media free with our children, we can see how it all still seeps through. It is part of life – there are advertisements everywhere, there’s billboards, there’s television on at restaurants, they may catch a few shows at grandmas, etc. And so it is all around us even if we try to keep it at bay as much as possible. Once again, what has supported us was our community. Our school is media free in the lower grades and so most of our friends are media free as well. But we also have friends and family where, trying to create a media free environment was like swimming against the current. I think that if we can share a film like this with those around us, we may be taking steps towards creating a mini community of like – minded people. It may take a little while to figure out what balance fits right for you and your family. There is no one right way. It is what you believe is best for you. Then you simply have to gain the support to create this.
A friend of mine that left our school and went to public school, asked her principal to give her a room that she can fill with wooden blocks so that her son can play in during rainy school days (as opposed to watching cartoons in the auditorium). After much back and forth, the school agreed, and now that room is filled to maximum capacity with children playing creatively on rainy days. She has now made friends with moms that apparently shared the same feelings, but just never took action on them. How cool is that? Sometimes, we just need to take a step, and others will follow, and before you know it, that current has slowed down, and you are enjoying your swim with fellow swimmers. And maybe, just maybe, a little movement is created, that leads us all in the right direction (at least towards some sort of healthy balance) for the greater good of our families and the world as a whole.
So how about asking your school to host a free screening of the documentary? If you would like suggestions as to how to contact Susan Linn from the film to speak at your event, please feel free to comment or contact me directly.
Spark up a movement in an area that you are passionate about!