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Irritating commercials - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
Irritating commercials
I know kids like the electronic gadgets, but I have to admit, I'm getting a little annoyed at the advertisements. The SparkArt easel (or something along that line) was what got me going this time. It's a whiteboard, apparently, and it has a speaker that gives prompts to the child. Like, "Draw a garden" or "Draw something that starts with 'B'." The children in the commercial are standing there at the easel, alone, looking happy as pigs in, er, slop. No adult in the picture anywhere. Another commercial features little electronic storybooks that prompt a child through a story, and at the end, the excited child runs to his father and says, "Look what I did!"

Aren't the parents jealous of this? Are they really tapping into a market of parents who are thinking, "Gosh, I'd much rather that a machine plays with my child, so I don't have to"?

Of course, the most irritating commercial so far this season definitely shows a parent spending time with her kids. They gleefully beg her to come to bed and read them a book. So she does... she reads them the Toys-R-Us catalog, with age ranges and prices.

Now, I'm not awfully picky about what parents read to their kids. My mother was getting her Associates' degree when I was a baby, and she used to read to me out of her French and psychology textbooks in that nice Mommy-voice, or so she tells me. But these kids are definitely old enough to understand, and a nice story-reading time is, "Hey, what toys do you want me to bribe you with buy for you?"

Sigh. I realize I'm not a parent and am therefore considered to be talking out of my ass, but aren't parents supposed to kind of like thir kids? Wouldn't it be nice to occasionally curl up with them, a packet of construction paper, and a box of crayons and say, "Let's draw dinosaurs/wizards/flowers/whatever!"?
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verdenia From: verdenia Date: November 21st, 2006 12:17 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh, lordy, and Amen, Sister!
Not a parent either, and damn glad I watch TV only late at night, so they show crap directed at my demographic--25-34, watching comedy/food/discover channels. I did see some little kid stuff at 5 am on the Biography channel recently, tho...
But yeah. Quality time with the kids. People I know are definitely in the construction paper camp. ;D (and if I ever decide to go that route, I certainly shall be, too--especially with artist!bf) ;D
Kid's going to be making art at a very early age. ;P (again, if I decide to Go There...I'm still tempted to just be the selfish, spoiling Auntie--I'm the oldest of four--but damn it, the world needs more creative liberal brilliant hippie kids...)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 21st, 2006 12:29 am (UTC) (Link)
Most parents I know are also in the construction paper camp. I mean, jeez, aside from the issue of liking their children, that electronic crap is expensive. I learned the phrase "We can't afford that" pretty early, and so do most of the kids I know, along with the concept of, "You may have this or you may have that, but you have to choose." And big traditions of just hanging out with the small fry--my cousin runs a shellfish farm, and is looking forward to taking his child out when he gets big enough.

I think what peeved me about the easel is that all it did was give prompts. Literally. Even if the parent is working hard on an annual report that's due at midnight, it would only take a second to say, "Do you want to make a butterfly?" Whether it's the parent or the automatic easel, you're still going to get the child wanting to see the product afterward if you're anywhere in earshot, and if you want to encourage creativity, no matter what gives the prompts, you've still got to say, "What a great butterfly that is!" so it's not like it's actually saving parenting time! Maybe the au pair is meant to compliment the automatic easel work or something...
coffee_n_cocoa From: coffee_n_cocoa Date: November 21st, 2006 12:28 am (UTC) (Link)
I hate that Toys-R-Us commercial, too!

The ones that really bug me, though, are the ones from Leapfrog, with the video games and the tagline "Because kids don't just grow up...they think up". I hate the subtle intimation that if you don't buy their (or similar) products for your children they'll grow up academically stunted and will never be able to enter the Ivy League school of choice.

I like to think that I'll do just fine teaching my daughter the difference between sunny and rainy weather, and what shirts and shoes are just fine without video assistance, thank you very much.

fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 21st, 2006 12:32 am (UTC) (Link)
I like to think that I'll do just fine teaching my daughter the difference between sunny and rainy weather, and what shirts and shoes are just fine without video assistance, thank you very much.

I know. It's amazing that the inventors of computer chips used in Leapfrog didn't languish in obscurity, not having had Leapfrog to help them along.

I know one family who can afford those things, and the kids use them well... after they've finished interacting with their parents. And I promise they get more educationally by talking to Mommy and Daddy, who are both brilliant and love having conversations with them. As toys, they're fine. There are worse toys. But the whole "You must have this or you're crippling your child" stuff is bullshit.
Preach it! - (Anonymous) - Expand
mrkimi From: mrkimi Date: November 21st, 2006 12:44 am (UTC) (Link)
It is s bit like Douglas Adams' 'Electric Monk' in the Dirk Gently series. People have VCRs to watch television for them because they don't have time, and he extrapolates this into an electric monk who believes in things people would like to believe in but they don't have the time or commitment or whatever. So we have gadgets to entertain our kids because we... um... don't want to do it ourselves. Sick.

I don't have kids or television so I don't know what I'm talking about.:)
From: evilsource Date: November 21st, 2006 12:49 am (UTC) (Link)
Are they really tapping into a market of parents who are thinking, "Gosh, I'd much rather that a machine plays with my child, so I don't have to"?

Which is exactly why I won't have kids. I know I'd be like that. It's all well and good to need a break now and then, but there's a line there. I know way too many parents who never sit down with their kids.

I'm starting to wonder if many people who have children are doing so simply because it's something they've always been told is part of life. Grow up, get a job, get married, and have kids. I wonder if more people would choose not to if they were brought up to see it as a choice like any other, rather than as a life stage.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 21st, 2006 01:09 am (UTC) (Link)
I dont' think it's treated so much as a life stage anymore--heaven forbid there should be a difference between being 16 and being 36, there are no life stages--but as this season's hot, must-have accessory for the stylish yuppie.


Either way, though, however much I dislike it, you're right. There do seem to be parents who can't get away fast enough.
(no subject) - (Anonymous) - Expand
muggle_prof From: muggle_prof Date: November 21st, 2006 12:49 am (UTC) (Link)
I am a parent, and I hate those ads too -- and all the ones that suggest if you don't have your kid hooked on electronics by the time he/she is 2, you're a bad parent. Kids of any age can pick up the skills needed to deal with computers, etc. But when they're young, they need time to stretch their imaginations -- not draw a tree because some machine told them to. They also need time to run around and get exercise and fresh air, and the minute they get introduced to electronics, most of them decide they just want to sit and stare at a screen.
I also remain totally unconvinced that a kid could learn to read, or even recognize colors, with some of the so-called educational toys out there.
Anyway, rant away. I think you're completely right.
galaxianomiko From: galaxianomiko Date: November 21st, 2006 05:37 am (UTC) (Link)
most of them decide they just want to sit and stare at a screen.

QFT. That's exactly what all of the little kids I know do. And they become FURIOUS if I turn off the television/XBox/whatever to get them to do something else, or if I won't let them use the computer. They simply have no desire to do anything else, especially anything that requires them to move or think (and no patience, I've noticed--that's probably the worst part). It's pretty depressing. I watched plenty of television as a kid, of course, but it sure wasn't like this.
izhilzha From: izhilzha Date: November 21st, 2006 01:05 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm not a parent, but being the oldest of seven children, with parents who not only sat down with us but read to us constantly and then homeschooled us to boot...yeah, these commercials drive me right around the bend. If you're going to have kids, then by golly you should actually change your life to accomodate them! The stupidity of people never fails to amaze me.

That specific Toys'R'Us commercial, though, amuses me, because I did a lot of catalog "window-shopping" as a kid, and I totally treated the Sears Christmas catalog like a storybook, the story of the stuff I would buy if I were rich. (Which we were not; more like middle-poverty-bracket.)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 21st, 2006 01:14 am (UTC) (Link)
If it weren't a commercial, I'd probably think it was funny, too. I loved the Sears Christmas catalog--especially the jewelry section. The more gauche stones in the necklace, the better. At five or six, I was sure anything with emeralds, rubies, and sapphires all together had to be the most fabulous thing in the world. ;p
chienar From: chienar Date: November 21st, 2006 01:39 am (UTC) (Link)
I hate those sorts of commercials.

My mother, in her wisdom, got one of the leap-pad's for my son. He's three and treated it like his trucks.... when he ripped the pen thing off and stuff lord knows what in the cartridge slot... it went in the trash.

His books though... they're in a neat pile under the edge of his bed. And his favorite thing lately is to call any bookshelf - a library. And keeps asking to go to "a big library."
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 21st, 2006 01:48 am (UTC) (Link)
Well, that shows a good sense of logic. It's a hunk of plastic, like the toy trucks. It has a place to put stuff, like trucks do. Alas, it's not quite as durable, so it won't quite deal with the mandatory crashes... ;p

I have to meet your kids sometime. They sound delightful.
(no subject) - (Anonymous) - Expand
ratcreature From: ratcreature Date: November 21st, 2006 01:48 am (UTC) (Link)
Well I suspect it is in fact because the parents don't want to spend time with their kids. I mean mine bought me fairy tales on tape for me to listen to before falling asleep when I was little before I could read myself, and I got my first computer (an Atari 800XL *is all nostalgic now*) for Christmas at eight even though I hadn't asked for one with the explanation that I had only asked for books and board games and they were sure I'd get bored over Christmas and was bound to bug them (and truthfully I had asked for the board games in the hope that they'd play with me), so they got me a computer and a bunch of video games, and thus I spent the Christmas holidays playing Frogger and the like and other computer stuff which admittedly also was a lot of fun. But their motivation was mostly that I'd be occupied without bothering them. And while I remember my older sister reading to me more often after I was four or so (horror pulp magazines, it was very cool), I only vaguely recall my mother doing that sometimes with picture books when I was very small, but that had mostly stopped by the time I was in kindergarten. My parents had no interest in playing with me. They got me stuff so that I could play by myself or play with my siblings or friends.
modestyrabnott From: modestyrabnott Date: November 21st, 2006 02:37 am (UTC) (Link)
Are they really tapping into a market of parents who are thinking, "Gosh, I'd much rather that a machine plays with my child, so I don't have to"?

Um...pretty much. Yeah.
eir_de_scania From: eir_de_scania Date: November 21st, 2006 03:02 am (UTC) (Link)
*sulks* I never got an electronic gadget that told me what to draw. My parents just made sure I had lots of paper and crayons, and let me draw whatever I wanted. Can I blame all my adult shortcomings on that?

Admittedly, I was a child so long ago that birds still had teeth and tails and electronic gadgets weren't invented.
From: severus_fangirl Date: November 21st, 2006 03:35 am (UTC) (Link)
...I used to enjoy having catalogs read to me, (Black & Decker mostly). Now of course, it was when (a) I was probably already reading on my own and (b) it was in between tons of other real books my dad read to me. But kids do enjoy weird things. :)

Now the thing that tells you what to draw? Is weird.

What I also think is weird are these things I noticed a few years ago that kids are supposed to trade amongst themselves - they were little CDs that had 1 pop song on them. Very odd.
From: severus_fangirl Date: November 21st, 2006 03:40 am (UTC) (Link)
I'd like to add that when I was a kid (in the early 90s) I had this electronic thing where you had to stick the correct letter into it. It was often wrong. ("Give me the letter P. No. You are wrong. Give me the letter P.") Yes, it really did say "You are wrong". In a mean voice. And it didn't acknowledge if you were right...
jiminyc From: jiminyc Date: November 21st, 2006 04:12 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm sure you probably know where I stand on this issue - right there beside you. Heck, my kids are grown up and we still love curling up together with crayons and construction paper! Reading together and playing together were very much a part of their childhood lives and I think that's why we're all such good friends now that they're (mostly) grown.

I could never understand why people who didn't want to be with kids went to all the trouble and expense to HAVE them. I hate that vein of advertisements, too.
From: bangcollision Date: November 21st, 2006 06:59 am (UTC) (Link)
I definately agree with you, parents should be doing the teaching/taking that small amount of time to actually go out of their way and do things like that instead. My little brother though, does use LeapFrog in the car (my parents want him to be playing with my other brother or with them while home etc) and it definately has improved reading skills that my mom has a hard time helping him with. She spends plenty of time with him, plays games with him as a stay at home mom, and even does those little activity books for reading and reads to him/he reads to her, but the LeapFrog has taught him a lot. I think they're annoying, but if used as a supplement it can definately be useful.
alkari From: alkari Date: November 21st, 2006 07:12 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm like eir de scania - grew up in dinosaur time, when there were no such thing as electronic gadgets. My parents read to me, and gave me lots of books, and blocks (Gasp! to build things with), and pencils, pens, paints and paper, and modelling clay / plasticine ...

My brother and I rapidly moved out of the children's section in our local library, and were turned loose in the teen section (well, what idiot thought that a mere 9 y.o. couldn't cope with Jules Verne) or shortly thereafter, the whole adult library. Once we could borrow from the adult section, we had a family visit to the library before going on holidays, because you could get out 6 books on one card (max. 3 fiction). The four of us would each get out 6 books, and the family rule was: Two books that YOU wanted to read especially, and the other four had to be something "for everyone". Twenty four books used to just about last our family for three weeks' over summer holidays!! Oh yes, and we also played family GAMES - Scrabble, Monopoly, etc.
From: kristinholt Date: November 21st, 2006 01:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
Or how about, I don't know, teaching your child to do something with books other than look at them?

I haven't seen any of those commercials, but am annoyed right along with you. There's too much emphasis placed on learning toys instead of kids learning through experience or parents.

Kids aren't even being taken to the zoo through the school any more, much less the library or the museums. And a lot of parents aren't stepping up to fill the gaps.

I live about 35 miles south of Houston, home to resources galore. My kids are 6 and 10, with my 10 year old being extremely gifted. His reading level is easily college level, along with his reasoning. However, he's not getting any science or social studies instruction at school whatsoever. He's learning everything from me and the History Channel. They haven't even discussed the origins of Thanksgiving yet, past Pilgrims good and Indians bad. In the fifth grade.

Ok. I'll stop ranting now. But yes, education begins at home. And should continue in schools but doesn't.
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