The Power of Words
Words have power beyond your wildest imagination. But can they really make a difference in the lives of children in today’s connected world?
It is rarely that you come across a commercial that impresses you. This one does.
In a world of stereotypes, boys and girls live their lives doing things that they are expected to. Not what they would necessarily want to.
Most of this stereotyping happens from the time a child is small. Most of it through little words that are uttered by parents or guardians, in what they view as the best interest of the child. A lot of this builds subliminal cues among children as to how they are expected to behave. Unwittingly, parents pass on their biases and their outlook on expected behaviour, to their children.
Which is what got me thinking. What if one were not to create these biases as parents? What if a child was allowed to grow up free and do as they please. Would that make a difference?
In today’s always connected world, I feel, that even if parents do take a step back and bring up their children with a gender neutral approach, the effect of society, media, social networks and the portrayal of children that these create, would still reinforce these stereotypes.
The fact is that a child today is over exposed to media – Television, Internet, Smartphones and Social Media Networking sites.
Most of these are used by clever (read scheming) marketers to target the unsuspecting child.
According to the documentary below, marketing to children, tweens and teenagers directly or indirectly netted over 700 Billion dollars annually in the US alone (in 2010).
The video is quite long, but it is totally worth watching. An eye opener.
By the time they are teenagers, most children have already been exposed to so much gender based profiling that they have little chance of surviving as gender neutral kids.
They are bombarded constantly through advertisements, programming, product placement, social networking & messaging apps, which reinforce the ‘ideal’ way for a boy or a girl to behave, look, dress and speak.
The innocence of being a kid or pre-teen has been replaced by a term that has existed for only the last few years – the Tween. A completely new niche, for marketers to exploit.
Here’s an article from Newsweek, which speaks about how far gone the situation really is.
The facts presented in it are outright shocking… and scary.
Being a parent has never been as tough as it is today. Trying to control children, who are so exposed, aware and driven by what they see on the internet is really, really difficult.
The pressure of being a good parent, makes a lot of them give in to their children’s demands.
In many cases, parents are not even aware, how the very same technology that they are allowing their kids to access, can actually be unsafe or detrimental to them.
Some parents resort to tracking their children’s consumption of the internet and restrict their access to apps. The fact is that most kids know more about the technology than their parents, so are able to find new and easy ways to do it on the sly.
It is impossible, as a parent today, to single handedly fight against multi-billion dollar campaigns, society / social group defined norms and peer pressure.
The power of words uttered as parents, are important. They help to build a sense of equality, neutrality and the feeling that if one wishes, they can choose to be anything that they want to be.
However, while it is nice to see an effort being made by an advertiser to reinforce the power of words, I wonder if it would be possible to change the scenario, unless there is complete change in our approach to parenting, restriction of greed among marketers and strict norms and laws that define what one can do and what one cannot, when it comes to targeting children.
What do you feel? Do share your views in the comments section below.