Tag Archives: kid culture

Where Are You Most Beautiful?

What if I asked you, “where are you most beautiful?” What would be your response?

For father and Clinical psychologist, Dr. Kelly Flanagan he wants his “Little One” to always know where her beauty exists: on the inside.

bonus points if you notice what's similar about these covers.

bonus points if you notice what’s similar about these covers.

Dr. Flanagan wrote a letter to his 4-year-old little girl on his blog about the oppressive language that’s seen up and down the make-up aisle of retail stores (and on the covers of magazines.) These words having staying power, power that grabs you by the throat and shakes you while saying (subconsciously) you’re not beautiful if you’re not “ageless,” “zit-free,” or “flawless.” (also see: clean.clear.and under control.)

He points out that after having a daughter he started to realize she’s just as strong and a force in this world to be reckoned with. She has the same gifts, potential and passions as any man. High-five, Daddio! Observing the words listed in the packaging of the make-up aisle many people, including her, won’t view her as someone that is fully capable of greatness, instead she will be thought of as a play thing or just a pretty face to gawk at. Society, you’re rude.

In his letter, father Flanagan (nope, not a priest, but it does have a nice ring to it) didn’t change the words marketers use, but instead gave them a new meaning, a better meaning. He redefined the make-up aisle.

Here are my favorite redefines:

Brilliant strength. May your strength be not in your fingernails but in your heart. May you discern in your center who you are, and then may you fearfully but tenaciously live it out in the world.

Infallible. May you be constantly, infallibly aware that infallibility doesn’t exist. It’s an illusion created by people interested in your wallet. If you choose to seek perfection, may it be in an infallible grace—for yourself, and for everyone around you.

Choose your dream. But not from a department store shelf. Find the still-quiet place within you. A real dream has been planted there. Discover what you want to do in the world. And when you have chosen, may you faithfully pursue it, with integrity and with hope.

He ends the letter with reminding his “Little One” that when she gets older and perhaps may want to wear make up, she should never forget where she is most beautiful: on the inside.

This letter truly touched me and I think more fathers, mothers, and overall people should take the time to dissect the beauty veil and how it impacts young girls/women psyches. I have found so much inspiration from Dr. Flanagan that next week I will be writing a letter to my own (unborn) daughter and posting it here.
In the meantime, I’m curious what life lessons you would include in your own letter to your child? Leave these nuggets ‘o wisdom in the comments! 



Moral Panic Mode: Marketers


In television commercials, marketers put their best skills to use: making sure the kids rule.   The characters, whether animated or not, are often young, thus making them really relatable to the target consumer, kids. Duh. Because no kid wants a parent telling them what to do, amiright?

Though I hate to admit it, marketers are smart because they realize that children are the primary consumers because of their direct buying power or the “I want it now forever always” and indirect buying power through their parents or “Please can I have it now forever always.”  Kids are drowning in brands; the most popular are toys, cereal, fast food, candies or sugary snacks.  The marketers’ task is to create a commercial that establishes an audience, sells a product and embeds values to children in hopes of creating a “cradle to grave” brand loyalty (Jennings, 2007). And somewhere in between the cradle and the grave we become zombies who succumb to this very formulaic (and successful) approach to marketing.

Marketing 101:  Baby Whispering 101: Marketers use different production techniques when selling products, knowing full well children cannot decipher between reality and fantasy until about the age of six (Chandler and Griffiths, 2000). However, different tactics are used to appeal to boys and girls and usually marketers bring in back up in the form of psychologists to determine how young boys and girls brains function. The most obvious tactic: voiceover.  Eighty percent are male because they appeal to both genders when used in a mixed target audience (Chandler and Griffiths, 2000). Therefore female voiceovers are only used for girl-based commercials. Because sciences of psychology and brains.

Marketers can format commercials to create underlying messages while simultaneously selling a product to children. Sneaky, Sneaky. Social standing is a main message that is portrayed through kids’ commercials.
Are in you in? or Are you out?
The commercials define not only who they are as a person through their own eyes, but also the eyes of their peers. Kid culture, though accelerated, has been focused around what is “cool,” or socially acceptable. Ok, yes, “cool” is a dated word, but necessary in this context. “Cool” is anything that the marketers deem as a must-have for social survival. But that One Direction album, “MOMMM I NEEEDDD ITTTT, IT COMES OUT TODAY AND I NEED ITTTT!!!”
And purchasing the must-haves leads to happy and fulfilled lives. Some messages are more direct than others. So essentially that One Direction album will make me the happiest ever, well until the next boy pop band comes along. Although, maybe there’s a point that I’m just now realizing. It could be a boy band thing, or a music thing in general, but at the age of 25 I’m going to be going to a Backstreet Boys concert this weekend, which will make me the happiest and satisfy my craving for nostalgia. Could a musical group be a brand? Absolutely, and apparently one that has been a must-have in my musical library since the Discman was invented. Now for claiming BSB has made my life fulfilled, would be a little ambitious, but then again Sunday I’ll probably have that frame of mind of life being fulfilled at that very moment. Maybe, I want it that way, and I don’t have to tell you why? (see what I did there?)
Ok, Ok but for commercial examples there’s Sketcher’s Pretty Tall Shoes which labeled the message of beauty. The product was branded with the words “pretty” and “tall,” telling the consumer what is beautiful. Pretty could’ve had a double meaning, as in they’re pretty tall in height in addition to the beauty standard. Hidden messaging, is all around.
Sketcher’s just keeps winning in the ridiculous shoe department with their recent Daddy’$ Money shoes, which essentially is the same thing as Pretty Tall shoes with the hidden wedge, just geared toward teenagers, and with the $ sign you would think they’d be sponsored by Ke$ha (Now who’s the genius marketer, ha).

It doesn’t matter if the product is food, clothing, or toys, children are trained by this “hypercommercialized” marketing wave to be vulnerable and give in to the messages. It’s time to snap out of zombie mode, people! We need to educate our kids and ourselves to the reality that kid culture has morphed into one of the largest consumer cultures allowing  advertisers and marketers to run rampant!

What ridiculous ads have you seen for kids lately? Share them in the comments. (extra brownie points (yum), gold stars and confetti for YouTube videos links!)

Moral Panic Mode: Parents

Kid culture is a relatively new(ish) phenomena defined by adults, (yup, guilty) who often have a clouded perspective of today’s youth. Adults view kids through the lens of moral panic. A moral panic occurs “when the official or press reaction to a deviant social or cultural phenomenon is ‘out of all proportion’ to the actual threat offered” (Mazzarella, 2007, 48). In addition, it is when a group is defined as a threat to the values of society and interests (Mazzarella, 2007). The purpose of the next 4 blog posts is to define how…

1) parents, 2) marketers, 3) journalists/documentarians, and 4) researchers aid in the development of the moral panic between adult culture and kid culture.

ParentsDistribution of media like CDs and DVDs has led to parents forming groups against these dispersal tactics. Parents’ Music Resource Center (PMRC) came on the scene in 1985, started by high profiled wives such as Tipper Gore, (ex)wife of then-senator Al Gore. Tipper Gore was shocked when she first heard the Prince song “Darling Nikki,” because the song references masturbation (Mazzarella, 2007). Though at the time the PMRC aimed to require all music, though predominately focused on heavy metal rock, to have a warning label if it contained explicit content inappropriate for children. Their passion spread to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). In 1990 the RIAA adopted the “Parental Advisory/Explicit Lyrics” label that we now see when visiting record stores (Mazzarella, 2007). Though the high profiled wives and mothers were able to have their voices heard around the country, most parents don’t have the luxury. And with the popularity of online music sales through iTunes, Spotify, etc. the world of music (TV, movies, etc) is WIDE open for kids with a computer or smartphone and a wifi connection, see: EVERY kid, has access to any and all music.  

Parents are forced to create their own rules for use in their household from music and television to the Internet. “One approach is through ‘restrictive mediation,’ a practice in which parents make rules about amount or time of viewing allowed, define forbidden content, and use media as part of a reward or punishment system” (Bachen, 2007, 242). The younger the child the more rules are placed on when, where and for how long use can take place. Parents of adolescents may lower their guard when it comes to displaying their favorite media characters, simply because they have more control over it in the home. By letting their children take part in “adolescent room culture,” the bedroom becomes a place where he or she “engage in identity work and investigate their future possibilities through media,” (Fisherkeller, 2007, 229). However, as parents become more familiar with the medium, particularly the Internet, rules may evolve (Bachen, 2007).

“Parents are deeply fearful about the World Wide Web’s influence on their children, according to the Annenberg Public Policy Center’s national survey of parents in computer households in the United States” (Aikat, 2005, 3). The Internet is a main concern because of the wide-range of freedom it gives children (Stern and Willis, 2007). Yet another reason why Facebook should have never left their college niche. “Teens have more autonomy to do, say and go where they wish than they have had historically” (Stern and Willis, 2007, 217). The three ways teenagers use the Internet is for communication, information seeking, and content creation. They communicate with their friends through Instant Messaging, (awww RIP, AIM) Facebook Messaging and Text Messaging with the phones they now have and the ripe age of eight. Damn you societal norms. They also use the Internet to seek information for school assignments and often complete those assignments now completely online. Now, more popular than ever kids are posting photos via Instagram, tweeting tweets they shouldn’t be during school hours and maybe writing the occasional blog post. Despite these uses parents are still concerned with access to “inappropriate” content.

Having the world’s information at the thumbs of your kids is scary sure with websites that have content about “eating disorders, bomb making, alcohol, smoking, and most of all, pornography,” parents are concerned teens who are seeking information about these topics will find an overload of information easily and those teens not seeking this type of information may accidently stumble upon it (Stern and Willis, 2007, 218; Aikat, 2005). For example, whitehouse.gov is the official website of the government establishment, but an unknowing teen may accidently type in the dot com (.com) address only to find explicit content. Note: It’s no longer an explicit site like it was when I was in sixth grade, but for the sake of argument…that example will do. Right? thanks.

But I have also found in recent talks with parents (disclaimer: I’m not a parent) that the “everybody’s-doing-it syndrome” is taking over. And as a parent it’s getting more difficult to just say “no” to requests like “everyone has a cellphone, mom” which can quickly elaborate to “everyone has a Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, insert all the social networking tools here.”
So as a parent…what do you do? Do you give in? What age is an appropriate age to allow your son or daughter to handle the responsibility of a cellphone and online communications. Parents, I want to hear from you! Leave a comment!