05 May 2009

Quality Educational Material??

I am writing in response to Kate's post about tie-ins. I would have to agree that tie-ins are usually just another marketing ploy, and have little to do with their proposed benefits for kids. Those 'benefits' just allow them to get away with nearly anything in the name of turning a profit. It seems like big corporations are always out to make a buck, and in these tough economic times, they will exhaust all options to do so.
On a related note, I found out that Hasbro and Discovery Kids are teaming up to create a “television network and website, dedicated to high-quality children’s and family entertainment and educational programming”. In 2010, the network will debut. But what will this new venture look like? If I had to guess, it will continue to have the educational content of Discovery Kids, but will now features more ads for Hasbro and it's subsidiary companies. Other companies have merged or partnered together for similar purposes throughout the years, all in the name of providing quality educational materials for children. Who cares if these materials are branded and carefully crafted to encourage children to become brand loyal? Or if they feature a well-liked character to draw them in? Or if they are made with toxic materials just so the companies can keep costs down? What really matters is that these companies are thinking in the best interests of children everywhere.
There is a Simpson's episode (how ironic, huh?) that features an evil corporation exploiting children for marketing research to create a new toy in time for Christmas. When I first saw that episode, it was humorous because it didn't seem that realistic (like many Simpson's plots over the years). But, I was disgusted when I was skimming through our textbook for this class and I learned about the company that used it's claim of being an educational, safe internet site for kids to gather information from large numbers of kids, which it then turned around and sold. It was a marketing research ploy. Agh! Where are our children safe? Either they are being exploited by perverts on the Internet, or by corporate America? Why has there not been more parental outrage over the second kind of exploitation? Have we as a culture just accepted it as a part of life- we have TVs, computers, etc., so we deserve to be deceived by mega- corporations?
As parents, librarians, and educators, how do we protect kids from this threat? I know my niece adores Hannah Montana, an imaginary character created by a corporate entity to hock cheap wares, and make them oodles of money. But, how do you explain to a 6 year old what is happening? She knows Hannah Montana is not real, that she is just a character on TV, but how can I help her understand that every item she buys with H.M's face gives more money to bad people? Do I even want to tell her that since I am sure that many people profit from the sales of H.M. merchandise, and that some good may come out of that money? It seems like a catch-22; I don't want to scare her, but it is very important that she understand the issue if she is to become an educated citizen/consumer. And, where do I turn for assistance, when the 'good' guys turn out to have as many bad intentions as the 'bad' guys? I suppose the most we can hope for is to remain educated on the issue and attempt to find a solution that is the lesser of two evils. If anyone knows of any great places to get information, or of any companies that are actually working for the greater good and attempting to provide quality educational materials/sites, please let me know!

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