Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Back To School With a Gang Banger & Common Hooker

Alternately titled: "Where did the kids who ARE kids, go?"

- or -

Alternately titled: "Where did all the happy kids go?"

Did that get your attention? I hope so, because apparently more parents NEED to be paying attention.

Despondent, depressed, hopeless, dejected, discouraged, gloomy, disheartened, downhearted, melancholy, blue, unhappy, heartsick, miserable.

Not very uplifting words are they?

I know I'm not the only parent that has noticed this change. It's a huge change and so noticable I'd be surprised if there's anyone left that hasn't noticed it. The change I refer to is the image put forth in advertisements for kids & teens clothing. You see it in every sale flyer, and right now with the back to school promos by every store out there, there are a ton of examples to pick from.

The first thing I notice, is the expression on many of the kids faces. See that string of depressing adjectives up there? That's the message that these ads send to me. These kids are ticked off, filled with attitude, arrogant, snotty, snarly, snarky and downright emo. Grab a local sale paper if you've got one handy and look for yourself. You're a parent, you know what that look means. It either means you just told them something they didn't want to hear (like "no") or that you're about to get a disrespectful argument out of them.

The next thing I notice about these ads, is the electronic accessories they all seem to be sporting. One ad might show what appears to be a 7 or 8 yr old boy with a cell phone up to his ear, and another one showing a (maybe) 10 yr old girl with a iPod plugged into her head.

Now hold on just a minute while I play the role of old fuddy-duddy. Since when exactly, did little kids need these things to be a balanced, healthy child? Shouldn't that 8 yr old boy be outside somewhere building a tree fort or a jump ramp for his bike or skateboard? While I'm at it, why does that 10 yr old girl have an iPod or cd player growing out of her head? Shouldn't she be playing and using her imagination, rather than having who-knows-what-kind of music pumped into her brain via the electronic toy she's wearing? And while I'm on this train, let me just ponder outloud that maybe the reason for the expression on her face, is due to the trash being pumped into her ears, eh? Garbage in - garbage out? (oh you parents of teens know exactly what I'm talking about here)

Oh yes, it gets worse. If you've got a sale paper in front you, turn now to the juniors and young mens pages for a minute while you hold your finger on the ads for the kids. Are you there now? Okay take a look at the way the older teens and young ladies are dressed and now flip back to the kids. You don't see the difference either, do you!? Someone please tell my WHY it's become the norm to dress our CHILDREN like adults. Hmmm? That 10 yr old girl and that 8 yr old boy are dressed almost identical to the late teens or early 20-something models. The little boys are sporting that trendy, layered/skater boy look (oh please, like they care!) and the little girls are wearing the same Jezebel inspired miniskirts and flashy tops. Hello? Have we all gone insane?

In a word, yes we have. We're such suckers for marketing and sadly our kids don't know better. When our kids see those kids in those ads, that's who/what/how they want. That's what is being advertised and that's what they are told (by implication) is acceptable or normal. It's normal ("but mom, everyone else dresses like this!") to them because the local WalMart, Target or Zellers (Canadian) fliers says it's normal and plasters these kids all over their ads. They see the attitude in the facial expressions and body language (why is it so common for a 6 yr old boy to be posed in an aggressive pose and look at the camera like he wants to slug you in the face?), they see the low cut and WAY too short hemlines on the girls (or the skin tight outfits) and think that is who and what they should look like. Now here's the thing mom and dad, and pay close attention to this because the Ad world doesn't WANT you to pick up on this:

This marketing strategy works, works very well, and YOU and I are the ignorant consumers with our heads in the sand that they're cashing in on - at the cost of dressing your little boy like a punk gang banger and dressing your little girl like a common hooker. What's more - the Ad world DOESN'T CARE, because they are only concerned with the almighty buck. And we (the people with the paychecks) just keep right on buying this stuff. Hmmm.

I really can't stress enough just how important it is that as parents, and Christian parents, we don't get sucked into what has become trendy and fashionable for our kids. It's our job as their parents to protect them from things they aren't spiritually and emotionally ready for, and to keep them kids as long as they are kids. Our little boys and little girls need to understand (as much as they are able) the difference between honorable character & giving a good impression, and following after the world by looking and acting just like them. That doesn't mean you dress your little boys like Old Order Mennonites, and it doesn't mean you adorn your little girls with frumpy long hemmed dresses, but there are much better choices out there than the Skank-Babe offered for girls, and the Thug-Boy line for little boys. It takes a little more time finding stores that offer it, or if you can't, learning to sew to make nice things for your kids, but it's worth it for them.

One last thought about this is that it strikes me as very disturbing that none of these kids look happy. In very few ads are any of these kids smiling or expressing any kind of visual image that gives you the thought that they're happy. When I was a kid and used to flip through the big ole department store catalogs with kids clothes, those kids were happy, smiling, riding bikes, playing sports, skipping rope & having a grand ole time doing kid stuff. These kids don't look happy, they look like they're filled with angst and discontentment. You have to wonder what the deal is there, and why these child models are intentionally being posed & dressed this way by the adults in charge of the photo shoot sessions.

As you can tell, this is a sore spot for me. I think it's supposed to be a sore spot for any Christian parent when the world wants us to present our children as unhappy, snarky little thugs or promiscuous tarts.

As for me? I don't buy it. I learned how to sew & where to shop to find cute stuff. It was more effort to be sure, but they deserve it.