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Editor's column: Rage against the machine — for your kid’s sake

No one is safe from Corporate America and technology — not even babies and toddlers. Make it stop.

December 14, 2013
Marshall Independent

It's hard keeping our youth away from screens. If they're not watching TV they're playing video games. If they're not playing video games they're on the computer. If they're not on the computer they're on their phone finger-scrolling.

Last week, I told my daughter we were going to have a phone-free weekend. With the exception of making and receiving calls on her phone, she was not to use it. No Facebooking, Snapchatting, Tweeting, Instagraming, or liking or tagging anyone or anything.

You can imagine she was simply enamored with the idea.

To her credit, she made it from Friday night all the way to Monday morning with only a hint of withdrawal symptoms evident by Sunday afternoon. She surprised me. Before the experiment began, I surmised it might've been easier to withhold food and water, but I made my point: that she can survive without her phone. And get this: This past Friday morning I asked Olivia where her phone was and she told me it was in her room. Then she said, "Meh, I don't need it."

Dad 1, Phone 0.

After the experiment, I came across something called the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood. Its name pretty much says it all. It's a group that aims to "reclaim childhood from corporate marketers," according to its website. This is my new favorite non-profit of all time. Every parent out there should donate to the cause. It would be easy to call the CCFC a nanny group, but with all the technology surrounding us - and our children - and preventing us from real social interaction, maybe more nannies are exactly what we need.

The CCFC is kind of like PETA for children. It looks out for our kids, which is a real blessing for parents. It says the result of screen technologies is a commercialized culture that causes harm to our children. No argument there. Childhood obesity, eating disorders, youth violence, sexualization, family stress, underage alcohol and tobacco use, rampant materialism, and the erosion of creative play are all exacerbated by advertising and marketing, the CCFC says. Again, can't disagree. It also says when children adopt the values that dominate commercial culture - materialism, self-indulgence, conformity, impulse buying and unthinking brand loyalty - the health of democracy and sustainability of our planet are threatened. OK, a smidge over-the-top there, but it's a well-meaning group that I trust is looking out for our children's best interest.

If the group's ultimate goal is to reduce children's screen time, count me in. And if you're not sure you want on this bandwagon, consider the fight the CCFC puts up against companies like Fisher-Price, which has gone from producing simple, skill-building toys for infants to things like the wait for it iPad bouncy seat.

OMGod.

Calling it the ultimate electronic babysitter, the CCFC, a Boston-based advocacy group, started an online petition campaign Tuesday, urging Fisher-Price to recall its Newborn-to-Toddler Apptivity Seat for iPads - a bouncy seat with an attachment where parents can insert an iPad so baby can watch video content aimed at the youngest children.

Might as well get 'em hooked right away, huh Fisher-Price? Bouncy seats are practically carnival rides for babies - one of the best inventions ever. There's no room for improvement, not that I consider an iPad an improvement. Show me real evidence that videos for infants are beneficial; until then an iPad is just one more thing little ones can drool on.

The campaign seems to be paying off with more than 4,500 people who have signed on demanding a recall of the product. Amazon.com has also removed the seat from its list of top gifts for kids in 2013.

The CCFC also has its annual TOADY (Toys Oppressive And Destructive to Young children) Award, and the only thing standing in the way of the technology-tainted bouncy seat not winning the award this year was the wait for it iPotty.

The iPotty, made by CTA Digital, is a potty seat with a stand for an iPad so toddlers can play games and watch videos while "learning" how to use the toilet.

Ugggh.

"Shameless commercialism" is redundant, but I'll use it here. It's sad, really. There is a place for technology in our lives, but why are we pushing the envelope on this? Why do some companies strive to take the "child" out of "childhood"? Why do we need to expose infants and toddlers to all these screens? Because we can?

CTA Digital has been in operation for nearly two decades and boasts on its website how it has "taken its passion for innovation and applied it to develop unique accessories that enhance the way that consumers experience technology."

That's capitalism, and that's great, as long as we define "consumers" as mature adults who are capable of choosing how and where they spend their money, not as people who are teething and making boom-boom. THEY don't need to "experience" anything outside of the rumble of a vibrating seat and the flushing of a toilet.

 
 

 

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