It’s very hard to raise green, consumer savvy kids in this increasingly commercial culture. Astoundingly, research shows that kids under 14 years of age spend about $40 billion annually, while teens spend about $159 billion a year on goods. But, it’s not just kids who are avid consumers. Parents pose a much bigger problem. According to a new study by Unicef, British parents have trapped themselves, and their children in a cycle of “compulsive consumerism.” The study shows that parents are more likely to shower their kids with toys and designer label gifts vs. spending quality time with them. We can’t come down too hard on our friends across the pond though, because parents in the U.S. have the same consumer issues.
What’s the big deal with commercialism?
As a parent, the worst thing about excessive consumer behavior is that you’re setting your kid up for a life where stuff matters most of all. Meaningful moments, time with family and living happily play distant second roles to a more, more, more mentality. I’ve talked to teens who say they just want to grow up and get jobs that pay a lot. When asked what they enjoy, these teens say stuff like, “It doesn’t matter, so long as a job pays a lot.” How sad is this? Companies spend about $17 billion annually marketing to children, but this rush of commercialism has numerous negative consequences for both children and adults. The Campaign for A Commercial Free Childhood has collected an impressive amount of research related to kids and marketing. This site is amazing, but some key points include:
- Marketing to children is linked to the childhood obesity epidemic.
- Marketing discourages a child’s ability to play creatively.
- Children who are more materialistic are less happy, more depressed, more anxious and have lower self-esteem.
- 44% of 4th through 8th graders report daydreaming “a lot” about being rich when they should be dreaming other dreams.
- Materialism contributes to family stress.
Beyond the obvious, commercialism results in non-green kids. A recent study noted that the more materialistic a child, the less likely they were to participate in eco-activities, like turning lights off and taking shorter showers. That same eco-study noted that materialistic children tend to be less happy, report anxiety, and feel less secure than less materialistic children.