An investigative journalist examines how marketers exploit infants and toddlers and the broad, often shocking impact of that exploitation on our society
It’s no secret that toy and media corporations manipulate the insecurities of parents to move their products, but Buy, Buy Baby unveils the chilling fact that these corporations are using -- and often funding -- the latest research in child development to sell directly to babies and toddlers. Susan Gregory Thomas offers even more unnerving epiphanies: the lack of evidence that “educational” shows and toys provide any educational benefit at all for young children and the growing evidence that some of these products actually impair early development and could harm our kids socially and cognitively for life.
Underlying these revelations is a dangerous economic and cultural shift: our kids are becoming consumers at alarmingly young ages and suffering all the ills that rampant materialism used to visit only on adults -- from anxiety to hypercompetitiveness to depression.
Thomas blends prodigious reportage with an empathetic voice. Her two daughters were toddlers while she wrote this book, and she never loses sight of the temporal and emotional challenges that parents face. She shows how we can help our kids live at their natural pace, not the frenetic clip that serves only the toddler-industrial complex. Buy, Buy Baby helps us fight the power marketers wield by exposing the false fears they spread.
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SUSAN GREGORY THOMAS is an investigative journalist and broadcaster. Formerly a senior editor at US News & World Report and co-host of public TV’s Digital Duo, she has written for several publications, including Time, the Washington Post, and Glamour. She lives in Brooklyn with her family.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
From Buy, Buy Baby What might be called the baby genius phenomenon—the widely held notion that infants and toddlers can be made smarter via exposure to the right products and TV programs—has spread throughout the toy industry. Today, to be competitive in the baby and toddler business, a toymaker must make toys that encourage “learning,” or at least claim that they do. The fastest-growing segment of the $3.2 billion infant and preschool toy business is represented by “educational” products, those that are advertised to stimulate babies’ and toddlers’ cognitive abilities. Indeed, the demand for such playthings has completely transformed the toy industry. It has helped catapult dot-com era start-ups such as LeapFrog into the major leagues. It has also drastically shifted the business strategies of long-time players such as Mattel’s Fisher-Price and Hasbro’s PlaySkool, as they try to compete in a market driven by so-called educational value as defined by wholesale buyers who employ no educational guidelines in their decisions, but who are governed only by how they believe customers will respond to packaging claims. It is now standard practice for anyone marketing to very young children and their families to make certain that his product—and brand—wears what is called an educational halo. As one kids’ marketing executive affirmed, if your company can establish a halo, “you can pretty much get away with anything.
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