Buy Buy Baby: How Consumer Culture Manipulates Parents and Harms Young Minds by Susan Thomas

buybuy.jpgI checked this book out ever so long ago and incurred massive overdue fines because it took me so long to read it. I did finally return not completely read, but only because it’s the sort of book I was just reading a chapter here and there and novels in between. I figured I ought to return it to the library so some other parent’s awareness could be heightened. Or really, anyone interested in marketing or business would find this a worthwhile read.

There were so many things in this book that were covered, or stuck out to me, or stayed with me. I’d say overall it’s a thought provoking book and got me to think about and discuss with friends many of the subjects in it. Mostly I got a really smug sense of satisfaction that I’m raising my child in a good environment.

When reading this you do have to take it with a grain of salt. After all, the authors have, while not necessarily an agenda, a point to make and a book to sell. Would you really expect Disney not to advertise its products? No. One thing that really stood out to me was the information about babies and toddlers being “branded” and how many brands they can recognize at just 12 or 18 months. When I read that chapter I thought, “well, my kid doesn’t know any of these brands” and then a few days later we drove into a shopping center that had a Toys R Us in it and he pointed at it and yelled “Toy store!”. So there goes that. But you know what I realized? That he’s 2 and I certainly hope he recognizes places he’s been to, characters he’s seen in books or on tv, and things in his life. As my husband says, “does it matter if he says “mouse” or “Maisy”?” Not really. Maybe my son doesn’t recognize or know McDonald’s (listed as one of the most recognizable brands to very young children), but that’s a function not of being shielded from marketing, but that he’s never been there. On the other hand whenever we drive past our local bagel shop he calls out “bagel store! bagel store!” I’m glad my kid doesn’t know McDonald’s but not because he or we are above advertising, but because he hasn’t had fries and Happy Meals yet!

I found the information about Sesame Street fascinating–its history, the pressure for them to promote educational benefits which may or may not have existed. Similary, the history of Disney and its marketing was extremely interesting. This was all presented in a very readable format, by the way.

What I liked best about the book was the Baby Einstein smackdown. I’ve always been opposed to the Baby Einstein phenomenon and its marketing of products which might entertain your kid, but certainly won’t make your child a genius. I will smugly say I’ve not bought my kid any of these products and feel very good about that. If you only read one section of this book, read the introduction and about the Einstein phenomenon.

The information about television watching and mothers my age was also really interesting. Apparently the “Gen X mom” is a tough marketing audience because in general we tend not to give our kids everything they want. Marketers have to work very hard, apparently, to find ways to appeal to us. Those ways were outlined here. Regarding television watching I can also say that I came away from reading this feeling very good about how little tv my child watches. He is presently hooked on watching Maisy, but we limit the amount of time. We do not have a house where the tv is on just as background noise, which I learned is actually pretty common. I was really surprised by that information and it helped me not feel bad about the tv that is watched here. Like with most things, television watching by young kids is bad when you just plunk them there in front of the tv or have it on all day, but watching some (age-appropriate! really interesting bits in here about how Sesame St. is watched by too young an audience) with his mom or dad isn’t so bad.

This was a very engaging book and I’d recommend it to any parent, along with Einstein Never Used Flashcards by Roberta Golinkoff.

One thought on “Buy Buy Baby: How Consumer Culture Manipulates Parents and Harms Young Minds by Susan Thomas

  1. Hey Sarah!
    did you get to the last chapter, which was all about licensing deals in relation to baby books, and how licensing gets into libraries and (scarily for me) day cares. The book stuff was something I hadn’t thought about at all. Much less obvious than the TV and video stuff. Anyway, it was an interesting book that I read just b/c you had mentioned it a while ago!

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