The Crowding Out Method
[Originally printed in the Simple Parenting Column by The Dispatch]
Last month, I had a conversation with a friend over text in which they explained how they only liked wearing colored socks. Ever since that conversation, I have seen advertisements on my phone via Facebook, Google, and Instagram for fancy socks, work socks, and even for a monthly colorful sock club.
This strange coincidence makes me giggle. By giggle, I mean that I have developed a slight conspiracy theory that someone is reading my conversations.
It may just be a theory, but I’m aware enough to know when someone is trying to sell me something. My four-year-old daughter Rosalie, though, has no idea that some of the cute Youtube shows she likes are made by influencers who are paid by brands and products looking to hook a younger audience.
Kids as young as two are spending nearly two hours a day looking at a screen. For American children eight and up, that number nearly quadruples to more than seven hours. Nearly all of this time staring at silly cartoons and colorful screens is chock-full of advertising. In the 80’s companies spent $100 million marketing to kids. Today, they’re spending nearly $17 billion. Whether on the television, a computer, tablet, or walking down the street, American children are inundated with advertising.
The data shows that marketing strategists are targeting our children, and even Advertising Executives admit it. In the article “How Marketers Target Kids,” former Advertising Executive Barbara A. Martino, said straight up, that advertisers are “relying on the kid to pester the mom to buy the product.”
This makes me mad, so I’m trying to protect my children. When I say “protect,” I don’t mean that I’m burning every TV they come into contact with and throwing my mobile devices out of the window. No, I’m just saying that we need to make things simple.
Let’s take advantage of every moment with our children and fill our time with things other than screen time. I like to call this the “crowding out method.” In my home, we fill our days with so much in-person face-to-face play, art time, music, mud pies, cookie making, food eating, and serving other people activities that, before you know it, no one has even twitched towards the tv remote.
During this time, I get to shepherd their little minds, helping them understand the world around us, including the inner workings of mobile devices, advertising, and marketing strategies. It is in this time together, not in front of a screen, that I am preparing them for the world that they will one day be free in; free from the bondage of advertisements, social norms, and social media, which is less social these days and more marketing anyhow.
So let’s be known for what we are for, not what we are against. Let’s crowd out what is ruining childhoods, and fill the time that magically opens up with memories that don’t include screens, remotes, or ads designed to direct us to the sugary cereal aisles. Let’s keep parenting simple.
Things to do together instead of allowing marketers to get to your kids earlier and anywhere:
Bake cookies for your neighbor
Ask your other neighbor if you can wash their car for them.
Have a dance party.
Write cards or letters to friends or family.
Volunteer at an animal shelter.
Make a cardboard box house.
Go camping in your backyard.
Learn about a different culture then have an international dinner.
Visit the fire station.
Then play with fire. (just not without supervision)
Plant a garden.
Learn to use a compass.
For more resources visit www.commonsensemedia.org. Common Sense is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to improving the lives of kids, families, and educators by providing the trustworthy information, education, and independent voice they need to thrive in a world of media and technology.