Smutty Magazines at the Cash Counter?

Jan 19

Does this belong at a Family Store?

Does this belong at a Family Store?

Is it just me, or have other women grown tired of the constant bombardment of porn images that grace the covers of so many men’s magazines?¬† I have grown too accustomed to turning a blind eye to sleazy photos of young women staring blankly at me with their mouth agape, barely covered breasts thrusting outward.¬† And what of our children?¬† I propose that it cannot be healthy to have my young boys exposed to this type of soft porn every time we buy a freezie at the local Mac’s Milk.¬† Don’t get me wrong – it’s not the fact that they see nudity that bothers me, as much as¬†the portrayal of women as sexual objects.¬† And, believe me, kids know sexual images when they see them.

Today I was at the cash counter at Canadian Tire and was surprised to see the latest issue of Maxim on the magazine rack.¬† Although my children were not with me at the time, I couldn’t help but feel surprised and offended that a respectable family store would display this sort of publication.¬† I have called Canadian Tire’s head office to complain and will see whether they respond.¬† I believe parents should expect a certain amount of restraint from respectable retail establishments.¬† To me, it is no more appropriate for a children’s store, such as Gymboree, to sell this magazine than it is for a store that sells¬†any portion of their merchandise to young families.¬†

If you agree that this type of magazine does not belong at Canadian Tire, I encourage you to send an email to their Corporate Social Responsibility department at

 

 
 
Share
Read More

Did you like this post? Get the latest posts in your email - .

Share your thoughts with us!

For Every Screen, A Commercial

Jan 18

When I hear one of my kids singing a commercial jingle, I cringe.¬† It’s not that I don’t enjoy their high pitched, bouncy voices; but rather, I resent the ease with which a giant corporation can brand their unblemished minds with a typically useless product.¬† As many parents can attest, a catchy tune and a few special effects is all it takes for a child to turn their glazed eyes toward Mom and Dad to plead, “Can I have it?”¬† Until the multi-million dollar marketing campaigns shift their power of persuasion to benefit, rather than burden, parents, the desire to shelter kids from advertising will persist.¬† In today’s age of the glowing screen, however, that effort is bound to grow more challenging.

Mobile phones have become the latest vehicle for product promotions

When my kids were toddlers, their TV viewing was limited to commercial-free stations, like TVO Kids, where advertisements are limited to a quick thank you to their sponsors.¬† As they’ve drifted away from The Wiggles and toward SpongeBob, the ban on ads is gone and kids are exposed to a slew of new toys and sugary cereals that they’d otherwise never know about.¬† Parents may take some solace in their children’s replacement of television with video games which have fewer, if any, commercial interruptions; however, advertisers have crept into those forums, as well.¬† In fact, the smallest, most personal screens – mobile phones – have become the latest vehicle for product promotions.¬†

According to a recent article in Advertising Age, companies like Kraft and Nike are offering interactive applications, such as dinner menu planning or ski reports, on mobile devices to better engage consumers with their top brands.¬† Rather than force-feed their audience an ad, they provide free online (logo-heavy) programs that conveniently integrate into recipients’ daily lives.¬† It’s an interesting concept and even die-hard anti-corporate crusaders will be hard pressed not to use a product if it makes their life easier. Parents should be concerned, however, that as more children join the population of mobile device owners, companies that sell children’s products will be salivating at the prospect of reaching them through those mini screens.¬† ¬†¬†

Advertisers are also likely to engage in tactics that are more intrusive and less welcome than the voluntary downloadable programs.¬† Last week, AT&T sent a large portion of their 75 million customers a text message promoting the season premier of the reality show, American Idol.¬† It’s sort of like having a telemarketer join your phone conversation with your spouse to let you know of a sale on ventilation cleaning.¬† It’s no wonder the backlash by its customers was swift and fierce.¬† However, this experimental effort by AT&T to promote its offerings via texting will likely become a regular occurrence as more companies discover the ease with which they can capture the eyes of millions of consumers.¬†

It’s a shame there are no profits to be earned by encouraging children to be more obliging of their parents’ requests.¬† Every kid in North America would be getting a mobile device for his next birthday if that were the case.¬† But that’s the stuff of fairytales.¬† In reality, parents who want to limit the forces competing for their children’s hearts and minds may want to dim some of the screens in their lives.¬† One added benefit?¬† Fewer targets on your wallet.

Share
Read More

Did you like this post? Get the latest posts in your email - .

Share your thoughts with us!

Are Kids Addicted to Video Games?

Nov 08

An autopsy on Friday confirmed that the body found in a field north of Barrie was, indeed, 15-year-old missing boy, Brandon Crisp. Parents across North America commiserate with the tragic loss of his parents and sisters, particularly because this story of video game addiction resonates with the personal experiences of so many. Removing privileges, such as video games, is a common, and often effective, means of teaching life lessons and has been practiced by generations of parents. Unfortunately, in Brandon’s case, what had seemed a normal course of action for concerned parents led to a tragically irrational response from a boy with an addiction.

Addiction has traditionally been relegated to vices – alcohol, drugs, smoking.

The concept of addiction has long been relegated to traditional vices – alcohol, drugs, smoking. But this incident has forced many to realize that the seemingly benign pastime of video game playing may need to be added to the list. Last Christmas, my husband and I decided to give each of our boys a DS Nintendo. Their ecstatic whoops of elation warmed my heart – that day. But, the battles that ensued for months afterward over how long and how often they could play had, on many occasions, tempted me to throw the beeping metallic boxes in the garbage (or better yet, hammer them to pieces.) The boys (6 and 8 years old) even woke late in the night sometimes to creep downstairs and play their games gleefully. Fortunately, they would guiltily confess their trespasses each morning. And I would have to find new hiding places for their DS’s.

Clearly, my husband and I realized, these little screens of animations were highly addictive and we were concerned. Now, almost a year later, we have come to a mutual understanding that the video games come out only every other day, and are timed for 30 to 40 minutes (with some exceptions.) My kids are lucky, however (or unlucky, depending on whose point of view), because I’m a fighter. They can whine and tell me I’m a mean mom until they’re red in the face (which they do) – I stand by my convictions. And it is exhausting. Just ask any parent of a video game console.

According to the National Institute on Media and the Family four out of ten parents whose kids play video games argue sometimes or very often with their children about the amount of time they spend playing. They also discovered, in a study on grade 8 and grade 9 students, that addicted video game players were involved in more physical fights, more arguments with friends and teachers than their non-addicted peers. It’s easy to sympathize with a parent who is tired of the constant battles and thinks, ‘what’s the big deal… It’s just a video game?’ After all, everyone plays video games these days. They’re right, almost.

Today, 92% of American children aged 2 – 17 play regularly. Market research firm, NPD, counts 174 million people as “gamers”, that is, those who play computer or video games. Of these, 22% of them are categorized as “young heavy gamers” and they comprise one-third of the population of console owners, with a particular preference for portable systems (DS Nintendo and PSP.) No surprise, then, that they are a marketing target for the big video game producers – Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo. According to NPD’s Kids & Gaming Report, “When kids get to the 6 to 8 year-old age range is when we see them turn into more serious gamers. Not only does the amount of time they spend playing games increase the most dramatically, but they migrate from using ‘kid’ systems to using more portable and console systems as well” says Anita Frazier, an industry analyst, “This appears to be a critical age at which to capture the future gamers of the world.”

Microsoft spent $500 million to launch their Xbox 360

Microsoft hauled in a huge catch in 2000, when they spent $500 million to launch their Xbox 360 – the most they’d ever spent on a new project launch. In 2008, Microsoft was the most awarded advertiser, according to creativity-online.com, for their successful marketing of video game, Halo 3. This Christmas, they plan to invest more money than ever to woo a wider audience for their Xbox 360.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qSdSnYGL7YA

It’s the quintessential David versus Goliath parable. Parents have little hope of defeating the forces of Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo with a measley sling shot. But, all is not lost. They can arm themselves with knowledge and awareness about the very real possibility of addiction for video game players and keep a vigil eye on the types of games kids play, and for how long. Kudos to Microsoft for recently creating the to help parents limit their children’s video game content and usage. Perhaps it will help improve the grade ‘C’ that NIMF’s 2007 Video Game Report Card gave parents for their level of involvement in their children’s gaming habits as a result of their failure to use the ESRB ratings system, and their continual complacency in allowing children to purchase and play Mature rated games. Call of Duty 4 is among the top ten games NIMF recommends parents avoid for their children and teens – the very same game Brandon Crisp, tragically, lost his life for.
Do you suspect your child may have an addiction? Try this Quiz for .

Share
Read More

Did you like this post? Get the latest posts in your email - .

Share your thoughts with us!

Healthy Snacks by Frito-Lay

Nov 04

With the kids licking lollipops and flipping¬†Rockets into their mouths, it’s hard to recall that only a few days ago (pre-trick-or-treat) they happily munched on carrot sticks and homemade oatmeal cookies.¬† But, soon the candy will run out, and their sugar-laced taste buds will once again appreciate the¬†flavours of¬†home baked goods¬†and naturally sweetened fruits.¬† It’s not just the moms who are anticipating the return to nutritious snacks, the trend toward healthier munchies, and¬†less junk food eating is being embraced by the big snack producers.¬† Consider the latest takeover of Alberta-based¬†Spitz International Inc. by PepsiCo Inc., which also owns .¬† Spitz, which offers packs of sunflower and pumpkin seeds in various flavours, has enjoyed an¬†increasing presence in Canadian grocery stores alongside Doritos and Humpty Dumpty.¬†¬†¬†

The addition to PepsiCo better enables the global company to meet the growing demand for healthier snacks, and should be seen as a victory to parents who have continuously shunned the junkfood aisle when shopping for their families.¬† Considering the huge amount of marketing dollars invested by the largest food corporations on snack foods, the news could mean more effort will be devoted to advertising for healthier snacks.¬† Of course, the best foods continue to be found along the periphery of the grocery stores among the produce and dairy, but when a parent is meandering down the middle aisles while contending with a child begging for chips, won’t it be nice to see a bag of pumpkin seeds beside the ketchup chips?¬† It’s not so painful to relent to your child when you can say, “Okaaay, you can have something.¬† Here’s a bag of Spitz.”¬† And, with enough advertising, perhaps sunflower seeds will become the next cool snack at the party.

Share
Read More

Did you like this post? Get the latest posts in your email - .

Share your thoughts with us!

Children’s Exposure to Online Porn – A Parent’s Guide

Oct 06

Posters of the movie Zack and Miri Make a Porno hang from the theatre where you take the kids to watch Igor.  The family-friendly Knight Rider (airing at 8pm) shows teens swapping jokes about porn while shooting hoops.  The latest “It” girl is barely dressed on the cover of at the counter where you buy little Mikey a lollipop.  As our pornified culture seeps ever deeper into the daily activities of a typical family, parents can be forgiven for thinking that the only way to shield their children from its effects is to bar them from ever leaving the house.  As ridiculous as it sounds, even an overzealous strategy such as that would not necessarily prevent exposure to porn.  In fact, the most explicit porn is most likely to be viewed in the home, thanks to the internet.

While parents ask “What do I do if my child sees porn on the internet?” the more realistic question is “What do I do when my child sees porn?”  In fact, many parents may never find out when that actually occurs.  According to a study on youth aged 10 to 17 years (Mitchel et al. 2003), a quarter of them had been exposed to unwanted sexual images, with only about half of these exposures being reported to a parent or friend.  In a study on Australian youth aged 13 to 16 years (published in Youth & Society), only 8% of kids will tell their parents if they’ve seen something disturbing. 

No wonder filter software is a multi-billion dollar industry, soothing the worries of anxious parents hoping to erect a barrier between Lego.com and Openlegs.com.  I personally have blocking software that requires a password to enter any website other than those I’ve approved.  So far, it’s worked.  But, my kids are young and easily stumped by short passwords and basic firewalls.  With age, kids grow increasingly web-savvy (surpassing the limited techie know-how of parents) and learn quickly how to overcome barriers to get where they want to go online.  In fact, despite the rush to buy the latest blocking software, studies – such as the Australian survey – have concluded that filters do little to prevent exposure. 
 

 

 

The proliferation of cell phones with internet access has only exacerbated the problems that parents face.  Results of a study of wireless search behaviour indicate “Adult” entertainment to be the top google search, making up almost 20% of all queries. 

It’s enough to make any parent throw their hands in the air and lament, “there’s nothing I can do.”  This is too serious an issue to just let it be, according to Pamela Paul, author of .  In her book, she describes what children learn through porn. 

“Watching pornography, kids learn that women always want sex and that sex is divorced from relationships.¬† They learn that men can have whomever they want and that women will respond the way men want them to.¬† They learn that anal sex is the norm and instant female orgasm is to be expected.”

Parents face a daunting task, no doubt.¬† But there is hope.¬† According to the Australian study, porn exposure was most likely among the most frequent internet users (that is, those who¬†surfed online¬†every day, or more.)¬† Therefore, a rational first step is to limit children‚Äôs internet access.¬† And while it‚Äôs virtually impossible to totally prevent a sexual image from popping onto the screen, parents can more readily address exposure, when it does happen,¬†by regularly reviewing the¬†surfing history.¬† Microsoft provides easy instructions on how to do this, and other simple methods to ensure children’s online safety.¬† Their website is http://www.microsoft.com/protect/family/guidelines/basics.mspx.

Having frank and open discussions about sex is also important in helping children put the sexual images into context.  That means including a chapter on pornography when you teach your child about the birds and the bees.  In Pornified, Paul interviews Al Cooper, past director of the San Jose Marital and SexualityCenter and an expert on Internet pornography.  His advice is to accept children will see pornography, and to talk to them about it.

“Not only can all children see pornography online, they will see it.  All kids today will see sexually explicit stuff and they will see it constantly… When a parent finds a pornographic picture on their six-year-old’s computer they need to have a talk with the kid.”

 

 

In other words, don‚Äôt cross your fingers and hope that your child will be the one in a million who doesn‚Äôt see porn.¬† And, on the other end of the spectrum, think twice about shrugging it off with the age-old argument that it‚Äôs “a normal part of being a boy.‚Äù¬† Both are forms of denial.¬† A mix of prevention tactics with open discussion about pornography will go a long way in helping children learn to recognize the fallacies and dangers of pornography, and to censor their own online exposure.¬† Because, truly, the best filter around, is the one within us all.¬†¬†

 

 

 

 

Share
Read More

Did you like this post? Get the latest posts in your email - .

Share your thoughts with us!