Monday, August 6, 2012

Examining the Price of Consumerism

Photo by Brian Ulrich
Smithhaven, New York, 2003
For his project:
Copia: Snapshots of Consumer Culture
I had a realization tonight. My discomfort with technology doesn't have to do with the technology itself. It has to do with the messages that comes with it, and with the time that using technology takes away from our relationships and responsibilities.

It's the inundation of material messages through technology and media that causes me some of the most angst. I believe that the more advertising you see, the more unhappy you become. Marketers know that to motivate you to buy their product starts with pointing out a perceived flaw in your life. You aren't pretty enough. You're too stressed. You're why don't you treat yourself?

Kids are exposed to up to 40,000 TV advertisements a year (American Psychological Association), and they are learning how to value themselves through these emotional messages of discontent. They are learning to hold material goods in high esteem, and according to research, they are taking on more debt to pay for their "stuff."

I found an organization that seems to embody my defining values and the life that I want to create for myself and my kids. The Center for a New American Dream focuses on "the connections between consumption, quality of life, and the environment has made New Dream unique among environmental and progressive groups."

To me, refreshing.

Here is one compelling video about our material culture that is found on the New American Dream's web site. The High Price of Materialism examines "how America's culture of consumerism undermines our well-being." Watch it. Examine it. We could all learn from it.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Gingerbread Houses in August

 After hearing the phrase, "I'm bored" many times last weekend, I came up with this craft that kept the kids interested for a good chunk of time, keeping us from falling back on the TV for entertainment. A successful craft is no small feat for me - I am certainly not very "crafty." The kids loved playing with the candy and creating some cute gingerbread houses, and I loved cleaning out the pantry.

All you need are graham crackers, frosting and candy pieces. Oh, and a broom.

Here are our creations. My daughters love this so much that asked to do this activity for three days straight. So it was definitely a hit!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

More About Channel One

Campaign for a
Commercial-Free Childhood
Coincidentally, I received this email message about Channel One just a few hours after I published my post about the company.

Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood has got the company in its cross hairs, and is rallying concerned citizens to urge their state's departments of education to investigate Channel One's practices. CCFC says:
And now, in a desperate attempt to make up for lost revenue, Channel One is escalating its daily commercial assault by advertising inappropriate and disreputable websites to students and  turning entire broadcasts into ads.
The organization says that Channel One shouldn't be allowed in schools because:

* It’s waste of students’ time and taxpayers’ money.
* Channel One violates its contract with schools by exceeding the agreed-upon limit on commercial content. 
* Channel One promotes websites that are inappropriate for children and teens.

To take action, contact your state's department of education and let them know that captive video advertising in the public schools is inappropriate. Just find your state on the page and click the link. CCFC has an email template form that's easy to use and send. I did so for my home state.

For further information about Channel One's marketing practices to school age kids, check out

Youth Marketing Company Active in Schools

Did you know that a youth marketing company advertises to up to 5.5 million middle and high school students in 8,000 American schools through an educational news program?

Channel One contracts with schools to provide the use of audio-visual equipment. In exchange, the schools agree to show Channel One News, a 12-minute, daily TV show with 10 minutes of news programming and two minutes of commercials. Commercials include everything from video games to movies and beauty products.

According to Jim Metrock, founder of the grassroots organization, the time spent watching Channel One programming translates to at least 32 hours of lost instructional time a year, and seven weeks of lost instructional time for a middle and high school career.

This is particularly upsetting to Metrock, whose organization aims to remove marketers like Channel One from the schools. “Kids should be using school time to learn, to study,” he says. “Schools should be a marketplace of ideas, not a marketplace for products.”

Further, Metrock says, “Schools should be a place that promotes critical thinking skills. An advertisement is the opposite of that. These ads depend on emotional response. Commercials make you feel bad about yourself in order to make you want to buy something that can make you better.”

For those schools that broadcast Channel One News, Metrock would like to see classroom time allocated to discuss or deconstruct the program. “There just isn't time for teachers to help students deconstruct the powerful commercials they are forced to watch.”

Channel One promotes itself as the “leading television news network for teens nationwide. Our mission is to inform, educate and inspire by making news relevant and engaging for young people and sparking discussion around the important issues impacting youth today.” Reading their press releases, parents might have no idea that Channel One is a leading marketing company to teens and preteens (or tweens).

The company is owned by Alloy Media + Marketing, which is not shy about its purpose: “Capturing the attention of CONSUMERS. Creating conversations that fuel POP CULTURE MOVEMENTS.” Further, “Alloy Digital controls the top ranked and largest media and advertising network of youth targeted websites...and, Alloy Education offers the most comprehensive youth database.”

Parents Can Help

Channel One does not disclose the name of schools in which it broadcasts. So many parents don’t know about the program. "It’s almost like its invisible to parents and the school board,” says Metrock.

First, ask your sixth through 12th grade student if Channel One is in his school. If the school broadcasts the program, Metrock does not recommend going directly to the principal. “You may be the only one complaining about the program, and that’s not enough to motivate the principal to reexamine the contract.”

Instead, he advises that concerned parents garner the support of other parents and act together. Once a group is organized, going to the principal and the school board with objections will be more effective.

Schoolchildren need their parents to be advocates for commercial-free classrooms. They do that by learning about Channel One and then by reminding school officials that schools are to serve students, not advertisers.