According to www.PBS.org/kcts/affluenza, affluenza is: 1- The bloated, sluggish and unfulfilled feeling that results from efforts to keep up with the Joneses. 2- An epidemic of stress, overwork, waste and indebtedness caused by a dogged pursuit of the American Dream. 3- An unsustainable addiction to economic growth. When I saw this video I was amazed to find how much we as Americans consume and oftentimes waste. According to the video, last year we as Americans used up almost one third of the worldâs resources and produced almost half of its hazardous waste even though we make up only five percent of the worldâs population. Although I found this fact to be appalling and in fact quite disgusting, I was more disgusted when I learned how much advertisers target children. I believe that it is wrong and unjustifiable to advertise to children for a number of reasons.
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First of all, it is wrong to advertise to children because they do not have the ability to distinguish between needs and wants. I have often heard my five year old niece say to her mom, âI NEED that Barbie Doll!â It is not her fault that she feels this way; she is a child who is easily influenced to believe that she does in fact need this Barbie to be happy and to fit in with her friends. Then, if she does not get the Barbie she gets upset and asks why she can not have it when everyone else has it. When her mother explains that she already has enough Barbies, she says that they are old and she needs a new one. Where does she get all of these ideas? From TV!!! This is crazy; it is crazy that we are allowing strangers (advertisers) to talk directly to our children and even influence their thoughts, something that most parents are doing less and less of.
Unfortunately, when children of a young age do not get what they want or what they feel is necessary for them, they begin to resent their parents. They say things such as, âYou are not good parents because you dont give me what I need, I wish I had Janes parents because they always buy her what she needs, etc. etc. Now, this plays on the emotions of the parents as well. Once children say these things to their parents, parents feel bad and feel guilty that their children are not happy and so, the parents buy the item(s) and the advertisers win! Now, not only have the advertisers succeeded in influencing children, they have influenced the adults into buying the items that they are advertising.
In many cases parents simply cannot afford to buy their children all of the things that they want or sometimes even need, but young children are mostly incapable of understanding this concept. When a child is watching a TV show, an advertisement comes up for a new toy and the child asks for it, but does not receive it because his or her parents cannot afford it. He or she in turn makes his or her parents feel guilty by crying or saying mean things to the parent. Now, the parent is in a difficult position because he or she really cannot afford the product, but the child cannot understand why. He or she cannot understand why other kids do have it and he or she does not. This makes the child feel either that the parent is lying or that the parent does not work hard enough. In addition to causing problems at home, this situation causes problems at school. Children form cliques based on who has what. Those that have all of the latest clothes and toys become the popular kids while those who do not have those things get made fun of. Unfortunately, this phenomenon does not seem to end with childhood; it continues throughout ones life.
According to Affluenza, companies spent $1 billion on marketing their products to young people in 1995, and I am sure that that number has risen steadily since then. This must be stopped. It is unfair and morally wrong for advertisers to target children, people who do not fully have the ability to reason. These children are easily influenced and are often led the wrong way by these advertisers. For example, in the video we saw lots and lots of advertisements inside schools. I found these advertisements for Mountain Dew, Coca-Cola, Snickers, etc. to be appalling because it is known that so much sugar can make children very hyper and therefore interfere with their learning.
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Also, it is known that such drinks and such snacks are high in fat, which is another problem for children. Because these images with nice colors and flashy logos are presented to these children all day long, they are curious to know what these products are. Children then spend their lunch money buying candy, chocolate and soda when they should be buying something healthier to eat/drink.
Many times, the schools are not to be blamed for allowing such ads to be placed in their schools, and on their busses. For example, in the video, one school superintendent decided to allow advertisements in his school to increase school funding because voters had not approved a levy in his district since 1972. In this case, the superintendent is placed in a very difficult position because he needs more money in order to run the school. Money is needed to pay teachers, to buy books, to maintain the school, for after school programs, etc. When the voters in the district (many of them must be parents of children attending that school) vote against a tax levy, but expect their children to receive a good education, the superintendent must look elsewhere for the money. He must allow advertisers such as Coca-Cola and Snickers to plaster their print ads all over the hallways, in order to get more money to run the school. This is such a contradiction to what is being taught in health and science class. Now, the children are not only being influenced to eat and drink such products because of the advertisements, they also doubt the validity of what is being taught to them in their classes. This seems normal to me because if they are being told not to eat such products because they clog up your arteries, because they make you gain weight, etc., but then they step out of the classroom and see these massive print ads which say Drink Pepsi the want Pepsi. Then, a few feet further down the hallway, they have a vending machine which sells all of the products that they were just told were unhealthy. Children are being sent mixed messages and are ultimately influenced more by these big corporations, who advertise, then by their teachers and parents.
Although it is evident that Affluenza has become a big problem in our society, the most frightening aspect of this phenomenon is the impact that it is having on todays youth. How can we expect todays youth to be responsible consumers tomorrow when they are grown up, since they are forming these dangerous habits of consumption from such an early age? As we can see, these habits are not easily changeable, because if they were, our parents would have changed their habits, become more responsible about such issues, and we would have learned from them as well. This seems to be an ongoing cycle which is being passed down from generation to generation, and is not near its end because there has not been enough exposure on the topic.