Let Them Be Kids

August 24, 2010

I had a nice chat with an eight-year-old on Sunday. She was showing me her REAL baby, a doll that ingests, digests, and cries, the doll on which this child spends all of her pocket money – buying clothes, nappies, and the all-important ‘accessories’. Our discussion took place at a Christening, and she had dressed her baby for the occasion, in real clothes, no less. She force-fed it water all afternoon, prompting numerous nappy changes, (lest the child develop a rash).

This eight-year-old speaks with an American accent. Really. I took a while for me to place it, but there it was; that undeniable, slightly Southern, but fairly neutral, Disney twang. Nothing wrong with that, necessarily, but you see, she has lived in Dublin her whole life. So, there were only really two possible explanations; too much Hannah Montana, or too great a wish to be like Hannah Montana. Probably both, I fear.  

So I ran a few questions by her, while I had her attention.

Q 1): “Which company has a ‘tick’ on its stuff, like the one a teacher gives you?”

A: (tut) “Easy….Nike!” (pronounced like ‘Bike’, but full marks all the same)

Q 2): Which one has three stripes close together?

A:  Adidas (2 out of 2)

Q 3): Which has an apple with a bite taken out of it? (Ok, so that one was pretty simple, a bit obvious, even to an eight- year old, but the answer astounded me)

A: iPhones

This is a sample of one, so I’m loathe to read too much into it. But there is very little atypical about this child, so I can only think she must be reasonably representative. She is from a very regular, suburban, nuclear family, who are neither rich nor poor, and she goes to an ordinary National School.

I recently caught myself, and then berated myself for, lamenting the fact that we don’t have more insight into children’s attitudes and opinions about products and services. Probably time to step away from the computer screen, you say.

So much is being taken away from children, especially urban/ suburban ones. For a multitude of reasons, they have so much less freedom than in times gone by. They are bombarded with messages from brands, and as a result are much more commercially aware than previous generations. Amongst even very young children, most have their own cash and many have the power to choose where they spend it. They are constantly being stimulated by TV, Video Games, play dates, playgrounds, websites, basically, organised fun of all kinds. I remember when playing meant running around. Whatever happened to going out your door at 9am on a summer’s day and being told not to come back until lunchtime?

Leave them alone I say, return their freedom, let them be children and protect their imaginations at all costs. After all, if we kill their creativity completely, who will come up with the killer campaigns of the future?

Claire

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2 Responses to “Let Them Be Kids”

  1. Julie said

    I’m more surprised she new Adidas than her recognising Apple. When her generation are older I wonder will they be real marketing skeptics?

    • theinfluentials said

      It wasn’t so much that she recognised Apple (I expected that), but she skipped Apple and went directly to iPhone, I couldn’t believe it!
      I think you’re spot on though; even now teenagers are so marketing savvy and really see through things like product placement. It will be fun to see just how it all pans out, and how difficult the job of selling to them will become!

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