American society seems a bit backwards these days. Not too long ago there was slew of articles led by Time Magazine stating that 30 was the new 40. In other words, adults were putting off adulthood in lieu of hanging on to their childhood via indulgences in toys, kids sports and other activities commonly associated with childhood. This was affirmed and even labeled in the book “Rejuvenile: Kickball, Cartoons, Cupcakes, and the Reinvention of the American Grown-up” by Christopher Noxon. As men and women get older, they tend to stay with their parents, put off serious responsibility like home ownership and generally enjoy the fruits of being a child with all the facets of being a legal adult.

This is not so bad. We’re not talking about dysfunctional people trying to climb back into the womb or any of that sort of nonsense. These are people like me who still have access to childish things like cartoons and heavy metal CD’s and don’t see a reason to put them away so long as they are not too big of a distraction from real life. Adults that are functional and mature but like to indulge their childhood interests are not a heavy burden on society. As a matter of fact, marketers love this crowd as they can sell them oodles and oodles of mindless crap. American capitalism at it’s finest.

However, this trend among adults runs counter to a trend among pre-teens and is infinitely more dangerous. Where marketers are trying to capture that elusive 18 – 35 year-old bracket of buyers, they have extended their reach into an even younger crowd. Junior high and even late elementary school age children not only have a great deal of expendable income (from their parents) they have the ear of their parents as well, thus double the profit. Of course the problem with this is that instead of marketing child products for children, they are marketing adult themed products to those very same children without giving a thought to how this all affects said children’s development.

The AP reported, in a story aptly titled, “10 Is the New 15 As Kids Grow Up Faster,” that, “…child development experts say that physical and behavioral changes that would have been typical of teenagers decades ago are now common among “tweens” – kids ages 8 to 12.

Some of them are going on “dates” and talking on their own cell phones. They listen to sexually charged pop music, play mature-rated video games and spend time gossiping on MySpace. And more girls are wearing makeup and clothing that some consider beyond their years.”

The article adds that, “Several published studies have found, for instance, that some tweens’ bodies are developing faster, with more girls starting menstruation in elementary school – a result doctors often attribute to improved nutrition and, in some cases, obesity. While boys are still being studied, the findings about girls have caused some endocrinologists to lower the limits of early breast development to first or second grade.
Along with that, even young children are having to deal with peer pressure and other societal influences.

Beyond the drugs, sex and rock’n’roll their boomer and Gen X parents navigated, technology and consumerism have accelerated the pace of life, giving kids easy access to influences that may or may not be parent-approved. Sex, violence and foul language that used to be relegated to late-night viewing and R-rated movies are expected fixtures in everyday TV.

And many tweens model what they see, including common plot lines “where the kids are really running the house, not the dysfunctional parents,” says Plante, who in addition to being Zach’s dad is a psychology professor at Santa Clara University in California’s Silicon Valley.

He sees the results of all these factors in his private practice frequently.
Kids look and dress older. They struggle to process the images of sex, violence and adult humor, even when their parents try to shield them. And sometimes, he says, parents end up encouraging the behavior by failing to set limits – in essence, handing over power to their kids.”

The crux of the article is that, “Advertisers have found that, increasingly, children and teens are influencing the buying decisions in their households – from cars to computers and family vacations. According to 360 Youth, an umbrella organization for various youth marketing groups, tweens represent $51 billion worth of annual spending power on their own from gifts and allowance, and also have a great deal of say about the additional $170 billion spent directly on them each year.

Toymakers also have picked up on tweens’ interest in older themes and developed toy lines to meet the demand – from dolls known as Bratz to video games with more violence.”

Here we see the worst parts of commercialism merging with a relic from the sixties. Kinseyan attitudes about how it is a good thing to hyper-sexualize our children have been around forever and served the interests of selfish and sick people. Today, we see marketers assuming the role Alfred Kinsey left vacant in the name of creating another billion dollar sales base. Some would say that this is just the way capitalism works and if the parents object then the parents should expose their children to deleterious material.

First, while I’m sure there are good parents out there that are mindful of what media their children are exposed to, that kid still has to go to school with several others whose parents are complete idiots. That’s not counting those whose parents are themselves drug addicts and alcoholics. It’s also not counting those whose parents are completely dysfunctional or parents whom are among the missing and leave their children as wards of the state i.e. foster care. Anyway you slice it, the far left in this country has done a wonderful job of outsourcing the role of parent to the government, who in turn is woefully incapable of doing the job well (save for the Armed Forces).

Now some would say that I have no right to judge parents because I don’t have a kid myself. I would tell those people to bugger off because as a social worker, which I am, I have to deal with end result of bad parenting and exposure to adult themes on a daily basis. While many parents sod off to entertain their selfish hearts delights, I’m there to pick up the pieces and try to help these kids become semi-functional. My job is made all the more harder by marketing forces infinitely stronger than I pummeling my kids with stuff they should never have seen in the first place.

CAMPAIGN FOR A COMMERCIAL-FREE CHILDHOOD has some alarming stats on the effect of marketing adult material to youngsters:

There is a link between watching sexual content and adolescent’s sexual activity and beliefs about sex.

More than half of teens report getting some or most of their information about sex from television.

Teens who watch more sexual content on television are more likely to initiate intercourse and progress to more advanced noncoital sexual activities during the subsequent year.

Another study found that girls who watched more than 14 hours of rap music videos per week were more likely to have multiple sex partners and to be diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease.

Boys exposed to violent sex on television, including rape, are less likely to be sympathetic to female victims of sexual violence.

I’ve posted many sick and twisted stories this year about crimes committed 7-year-olds and such but it may take something bizarre like Michael Richards uttering the N-word for people to actually do something about it.

Be Sociable, Share!