Culture Teaches Children Things Become Their Identity


A few years ago I read a book about ways companies target teenagers with their products.

One of the most interesting was giving all of their clothes to popular kids for free. Of course other students after seeing this would be motivated to buy the same merchandise.

Thankfully that kind of marketing has yet to involve younger children. However there is something much more subtle (but just as deadly) used to reach them

This begins with carefully placed commercials for the latest toy or game. That of course is nothing new since companies have been doing it for years [1].

Recently though product placement is something that companies have used a lot more.

I remember going to see the movie Frozen last year with my family, and while killing time in a local store before it started finding a huge display filled with characters from the movie [2].

At this point we are just dealing with children who will beg and plead for the latest toy…but if we aren’t careful this could become a much more serious problem.

Companies when encountering a popular movie or tv show (like Frozen or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) will go overboard in creating merchandise related to it.

Which makes it very easy for a child to embrace that movie as their identity

Deep down inside during our younger years we all want to become part of a favorite movie or book. Having this merchandise allows a child to do just that (you really are Elsa, or a Ninja Turtle).

There is little danger of a child literally believing they can do the same thing as their favorite character.  But this love of identifying themselves with it can create an extremely deep connection to that merchandise, to the point where it becomes part of who they are as a person.

A little boy I tutor on Tuesdays (I will call him sam) is absolutely obsessed with the Power Rangers and ninja’s.

He constantly wears Power Ranger gear while carrying a Power Ranger backpack. And no matter what book we read together, it always somehow becomes a story about Power Rangers or Ninja’s.

Now this by itself isn’t really a serious problem. But the obsession over time can create a connection that views this brand as his personality (he is a Power Ranger kid).

So now it isn’t just a backpack or shirt, it’s a vital part of who he is as a person.

Play this out and eventually San would become one of those teenagers who absolutely has to have the latest video game, gadget, or clothing. Not just because it’s cool, but because his identity depends on it.

So how are we supposed to combat a culture that turns merchandise into the heart of a child’s personality?

  1. By showing wisdom in the amount of merchandise we purchase
  2. By understanding WHY that movie or television program is so important to our children [3].
  3. By choosing to purchase merchandise related to healthy movies or television programs
  4. And most importantly by saying no

In a world where children are one the most heavily marketed people groups imaginable it’s difficult to keep materialism from taking hold of a child’s heart. But it’s also necessary since that keeps things from becoming the foundation of a child’s life.

  1. I remember practically begging my father for a He-Man figure when I was a child  ↩
  2. Disney had set it up where children were able to see Frozen merchandise right after watching the movie  ↩
  3. There isn’t always a deep reason why they love that thing, but it’s important that we make an attempt to understand  ↩

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