CBS: Parents Need Government Help to Raise Kids

Are parents powerless to counter the influence of the advertising industry on their children? 

Apparently so, in Katie Couric's world.  During the May 14 CBS Evening News broadcast, the anchor featured a guest expert who said parents “need help from the government” to stop advertisers from turning children into underage drinkers, smokers, and worse.

Corporations are now spending $17 billion annually on marketing aimed directly at children, CBS reported.  According to Couric, “it's turning our kids into mini-shop-a-holics, it's teaching them the wrong values.”

Reports show children between the ages of 8 and 12 spend $30 billion of their own money each year.  This breaks down to about $1,500 per child and does not include the $150 billion spent by parents who are influenced by their children. 

Dr. Susan Linn, co-founder of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, told Couric that “advertising and marketing is a factor in childhood obesity and eating disorders, precocious irresponsible sexuality, youth violence, underage drinking, and underage tobacco use.”

But what about the parents' responsibility to raise their children?  CMI's National Cultural Values Survey found that 74 percent of Americans believe the nation is in moral decline, and that these people believe the media are the second greatest influence on declining moral values – but parents and families failing to teach the right values are the greatest influence. 

Couric, in what appeared to be a nod to the importance of parental responsibility, asked Linn, “Isn't it up to the parents to help their children become discriminating consumers?” 

Linn answered, “It's unfair and naïve to expect that parents on their own are going to be able to do a great job of coping with this.  They need help.  They need help from the government.”

Of course it's unfair to expect that parents can do this on their own when they are part of the problem.  They cannot say no to their children's demands. 

Couric also interviewed Paul Kurnit, a marketing professor from Pace University, who said “Increasingly we're seeing kids influence family restaurants, family vacations.  We even have research showing more and more kids are influencing the decision on the family car and the family home.”

According to Couric, U. S. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) has proposed a bill that would give the Federal Trade Commission the authority to restrict unfair advertising to children.

Passing a bill will not solve this problem.  Parents need to find the will to stand up to their children and say “no” in order for this targeted advertising to change.  CBS, in its nod to big government, did nothing to hold parents responsible for raising their own children with healthy values.    

Colleen Raezler is a research assistant at the Culture and Media Institute, a division of the Media Research Center.