Consumerism is a large part of children’s lives. Their parents are constantly buying goods, so they are exposed to it frequently. It is important for children to begin their relationship with consumerism as early as they can, because there is a journey that they must go through to create this relationship. Consumerism can be a part of a person’s life as soon as they are born in the form of baby-oriented consumerism, where the parents of the child make purchasing decisions for them in order to meet a goal that they have set.
Once children are old enough to comprehend the notions of buying and selling, it is imperative that they have suitable socialization agents to lead and mentor them into a healthy understanding and rapport with consumerism. After the relationship is created, the children are able to perceive consumerism and interact with money in their own way. However, it is essential to remember that children are young, naïve, and impressionable, so there should be a resistance barrier to child consumerism set in place.
Consumerism is a part of daily life. The buying and selling of goods keep the world moving constantly. Adults are experienced and able to understand the complications and persuasiveness in the marketplace. Children, however, are not as knowledgeable and are impressionable, which makes them vulnerable consumers. They must go through a journey of learning about consumerism, which can begin right after they are born. When they are a baby, a child’s parents make decisions for them in terms of purchasing.
Once they are old enough, they rely on their socialization agents to set standards for how to interact in the marketplace. After the child has an understanding of how to interact within the marketplace, then they are able to form their own perceptions of how to use their money. Even though it is important for children to create their own relationship and perceptions early on, it is also a good idea to set restrictions in terms of consumerism.
From the moment a person is born, to the moment they die, they are bombarded with the notion of consumerism. Šramová describes this as the “cradle-to-grave” approach, where companies try to obtain people’s loyalty at a young age that will last their entire life (2014). Once a child is born, it is up to the parents to make purchasing decisions for them until they can make their own.
Affleck, Carter, Anthony, and Grauerholz interviewed 14 new mothers, to get a better insight to the decisions mothers make for their children (2013). A new mother has to decide between breastfeeding her child and feeding it formula. If she chooses to feed them formula, then she has to make the decision of which formula is the best. This type of consumerism can be referred to as “baby-oriented consumerism” (Afflerback, Carter, Anthony, & Grauerholz, 2013). Baby-oriented consumerism was found to be driven by a certain goal that a mother was trying to reach for their child. In contrast, it was also found that these mothers took part in “mother-oriented consumerism”, where the mother wants to reach goals she set for herself. (Afflerback, Carter, Anthony, & Grauerholz, 2013)
Once a child is old enough to start comprehending the notion of purchasing, socialization agents must be engaged. Socialization agents are core models and standards found in a child’s life. These agents can range from friends and family to television (Lenka & Vandana, 2015). The socialization agents help children acquire abilities in terms of the marketplace and eventually mold them into proficient consumers (Arthur & Sherman, 2016). It is important to examine a child’s socialization agents when studying child consumerism because the agents are ultimately the child’s source of consumer-based information.
Even though a child has gained understanding from their socialization agents, does not mean that they are able to make appropriate purchases on their own. According to Basu and Sondhi, children and their parents go through multiple stages of agreeing and disagreeing concerning shopping, involving refusal, negotiation, and agreement (2014). When discussing whether or not to buy an item between parents and their children, the child ends up having a pretty large role in whether or not their parents make that decision (Mau, Schramm-Klein, & Reisch, 2014).
Once a child is old enough to make their own conscious decisions, a sort of consumer frenzy begins. The obsession to shop grows with the number of commercialized items they take in on a day-to-day basis. Commercials are one of the easiest ways to get a child’s attention.
Television commercials are a large contributor to the child consumer bracket in the marketplace. Through their research, Soni and Vohra found that, in America, there are 24 advertisements every hour on television (2014). By monitoring popular children’s networks for ten weekdays and weekends, it was established that food commercials are more prevalent during the weekends when the children are home from school (Soni & Vohra, 2014).
Through this study, it is apparent that children are considered to be vulnerable in the marketplace, since advertising is around them constantly, in large amounts. Spotswood and Nairn state that children cannot truly comprehend the “materiality of the message” in commercials, which makes them more vulnerable in the marketplace (2016). Another quality that makes them vulnerable is that they are extremely impressionable, by both their family and peers. It is imperative that the child begin to create their own views of consumerism in order to be secure in the consumer-driven world.
Children’s perception of consumerism may be skewed due to their inexperience and vulnerability. When watching a movie or television show, the child may not understand that the name-brand can of soda is product placement. Rosendale, Slot, van Reijmersdal, and Buijzen, studied 152 children in order to examine their perception of advertising in video games (2013). It was found that children who had more experience with social games were able to find the integrated advertisements than those who played these games less.
In contrast, Power and Smith aimed to study the limited connection that children have with money. They began by asking the question “If someone gave you £1 million (roughly $1.23 million) today, what would you do with it?” (2016). The children fell into three different categories: givers, savers, or spenders. The children’s answers differed from what Power and Smith thought they would answer. Almost half of the children declared that they would give away a generous amount of the £1 million to either charities or family members, with 25% of them stating that they would give all of their money away (Power & Smith, 2016). When it came to saving their money, one-third stated that they would save it, with only one-eighth saving it all (Power & Smith, 2016). The remaining children decided that they would spend their money.
Resistance to consumerism may seem futile, since a child is not an independent consumer, so the research on resistance is slim (The Author(s), 2013). Ponelienė interviewed 18 children, ages 6-7 years old, and 310 parents of children in this age range in order to find out if there is a way for children to resist consumerism (2014). Through in-person interviews with the children and questionnaires from the parents, Ponelienė’s conclusion was that in order to resist consumerism children must learn about their culture and devise a way to resist mass culture ideals (2014).
Children are the future of consumerism. It is important for them to understand buying and selling before they become consumers themselves. Social agents assist them in navigating the marketplace and child-focused consumerism. After children have a general perception of consumerism, they are then able to be consumers, themselves, and interact with money and purchasing. Child consumerism can be difficult to navigate, so it is important for children to build up a resistance to consumerism and have a better understanding of advertising around them.