Monday, December 01, 2008

Because they don't know how to say no 

Some parents want toy companies to stop advertising to their kids.
The letter-writing initiative was launched by the Boston-based Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, which says roughly 1,400 of its members and supporters have contacted 24 leading toy companies and retailers to express concern about ads aimed at kids.

"Unfortunately, I will not be able to purchase many of the toys that my sons have asked for; we simply don't have the money," wrote Todd Helmkamp of Hudson, Ind. "By bombarding them with advertisements ... you are placing parents like me in the unenviable position of having to tell our children that we can't afford the toys you promote."

The Toy Industry Association has responded with a firm defense of current marketing practices, asserting that children "are a vital part of the gift selection process."

"If children are not aware of what is new and available, how will they be able to tell their families what their preferences are?" an industry statement said. "While there is certainly greater economic disturbance going on now, families have always faced different levels of economic well-being and have managed to tailor their spending to their means."
Toy companies would not waste money on advertising on children shows if it was not effective. So why is it effective? Because parents will respond to their child's list to Santa or to relatives -- Littlest makes a list that goes to my family out East, though now they've cut me out of the process since she's old enough to have her own email. And we, as parents, are old enough to decide what toys are on the list and what toys aren't, which ones we can afford and which ones we cannot. How is it the toy industry's responsibility to teach my children about budgeting?

Rather than write letters, this strikes me as a good time for parents to sit with their children and discuss how they budget in tight times. Indeed, there is no better time. Children are not ignorant of the economic situation. Littlest has asked questions about the recession. And I am trying to make sure talks about the family budget occur in her presence. There's little doubt our children can use more financial literacy; I'd call saying 'no' to that Wii a teachable moment.

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