The Cambrian

Lady Tie Di: Sorting out information from propaganda

Much of our environmental plight is due to over-consumerism, which is due mostly to being uninformed consumers. Sometimes it’s “comfort shopping,” or “keeping up with the Jones’” syndrome. That doesn’t make it any more acceptable. But look what we’re bombarded with every day.

It’s almost impossible to avoid advertising. While I don’t have television, we do have the Internet, which is just as bad at promoting, propagandizing and pressuring you into ways of thinking and buying. My son and I have had many arguments over what a company is trying to convince you of because they’re trying to make a buck.

Some times issues/products are somewhat disguised. Packaged with solemn music, heartfelt dialogue about the shortcomings of one product or another and possibly a celebrity endorser to add “validity” to the product—well, we all know our lives depend on purchasing this item. “But so-and-so is the real deal. He should know! Look what’s in this other stuff!”

“Who conducted the study? A business or independent company NOT paid by the manufacturers?”

“You just don’t believe anything, do you!?”

“Nope. Not what I read nor what I see, any more, not without thorough study.”

Drives kids absolutely crazy. BUT, I think it’s crucial to our physical, as well as financial, survival to differentiate whitewashing from legitimate goods.

“Media literacy” is not a new term, but as advertisers find new ways to get into our heads, it’s something we, as parents, as educators, as leaders, need to be dialed in to. “The average American child watches an estimated 25,000 –40,000 television commercials per year. $15-17 billion is spent annually on advertising directed at children. U.S. teens spend around $160 billion per year. Children up to age 11 spend around $18 billion per year” (resources listed at http://www.globalissues.org/article/237/children-as-consumers).

“Who do you really think you’ll attract or NOT by wearing those clothes?” “What did you REALLY experience drinking that sports drink over another? Did it REALLY make a difference?” “Who did the studies on those shoes/helmets/shampoo?” “It says ‘berries’ on the front, but how many berries are really in it — or is it mostly high-fructose corn syrup?” “What all are you actually getting when you buy that game in the box?”

Asking questions like these is how you become a savvy shopper, a responsible shopper, not a blind consumer who bends to the will of the manufacturers. Get your children to read labels carefully and consider the sources of the claims. Make sure they know what they’re getting before they put out that hard-earned allowance.

Mostly, set an example for your kids by voicing out loud your processing — “How many speeds does this blender have? How many do I really need? Glass lasts longer than plastic, so that may be a better investment for the money.” Not only will you be helping your children learn not to spend recklessly, but you may find yourself holding onto your wallet a little tighter as well!

Other resources to check out (with both eyes open!):

http://www.medialit.org/focus/tea_home.html

http://www.med.umich.edu/yourchild/topics/media.htm

http://pbskids.org/dontbuyit/

E-mail Lady Tie Di, aka Dianne Brooke, a member of the Coast Unified School District Board of Trustees, at tiedi@att . net, or visit her Web site at www.ladytiedi.com.

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