Childhood is seen by many as a period of protection for the development of our children. It is an important social investment in our future. For example, we have laws against child abuse and child labor. Because of this we would assume that corporate America also would have the best interests of our children and youth at heart.
Surprise, surprise. This may not be so. Indeed, in the process of questioning the politics of the free market system, experts on the development of youth have begun to question the impact of a money-driven economy on the well being of children (Giroux, 2009; Shor, 2005). Rather than a culture of protection, these writers report of a culture that has been corrupted by rampant commercialism, commoditization, and consumption.
For example, the United States is now reported to be one of the most violent countries in the industrialized world, leading in homicides, rapes and assaults. TV guide report has reported that a violent incident is shown on television, on the average, every six minutes. The number of violent acts depicted on television has tripled since the deregulation of the industry. In a national survey, 91% of the responding teachers reported an increased violence among children in their classrooms as a result of cross-media marketing of violent cartoons, toys, videos, and other licensed products (National Association of The Education of Young Children, 1998).
In 2007 UNICEF released a report on the well-being of children in nations with the most advanced economies. Children’s welfare was evaluated along six dimensions: material well-being, family and peer relationships, behaviors and risks,and subjective well-being. Denmark, Sweden, and the Netherlands were found to be taking the best care of their young, while the United States and the United Kingdom scored the lowest. While the data and the definitions in the survey are still being refined, it does show the importance of taking better care of our children (Shift, 2009).
A crisis creates new opportunities. Our awareness can stimulate us to reclaim our power and take action for what we want in our communities for our children and families. If we complain about the negative, we continue to give it power, and we only get more of the same. Far more powerful is to focus on the assets children need in order to grow up as healthy, responsible, and caring.
We can turn off the television, and spend time with our kids, whether it is playing with them, reading a book, or taking time for an evening meal. It is through these kinds of activities that we show that we care. For many, spending time with our children and grand children, is one of our most fundamental sources of happiness. It is also our future.
Giroux, H. “Youth in a Suspect Society: Beyond the Politics of Disposability,” to be published by Palgrave McMillan in 2009.
National Association of the Education of Young children, NAEYC Position Statement on Violence
in the lives of children, 1998. http://www.naeyc.org.
Shift Magazine, “In Search of Happiness,” Spring, 2009.
Shor, Juliet. “Born to Buy.” New York: Scribner, 2005.
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