"Mini-Marketeers" Need Media Literacy, Not Junk Food

This was originally posted at the AWEARNESS blog.

It was just a matter of time until marketers got their hands on their real desired recruits -- kids. In some social media circles, there's no need to woo mom bloggers with free samples of the latest snack chip, instead kids are doing it on their own:
In some cases children as young as seven have been offered the chance to become "mini-marketeers" to plug brands by casually dropping them into postings and conversations on social networking sites.
They can earn the equivalent of £25 a week for their online banter -- sometimes promoting things that they may not even like. Among the products being pushed are soft drinks, including Sprite and Dr Pepper, Cheestrings and a Barbie-themed MP3 player. Record labels are also using the marketing technique to promote performers such as Lady Gaga.

In a time when First Lady Michelle Obama is campaigning to help our children get healthier, this targeting of kids should make us sit up and notice. It should also demonstrate that we can rid our schools of brand-name clothes and junk food and it just doesn't doesn't seem to matter. As we continue to debate the benefits of milk, our children are online being paid to talk up junk food. And I think we know that our kids don't need to be talked into the latest concoction from a chip company.

While I don't like that FLOTUS Obama is touting BMI as a way to keep track of our children's pot bellies, I do hope that within her campaign to keep our children healthy she pushes for every school to include media literacy as a part of their curriculum. I know that each time my daughter has a project that asks for her to flip through magazines for pictures to cut out, I hover over her like a hawk due to the images that live in between the covers.

It's not enough to talk about how chubby someone is or isn't, what their BMI (I call it a bullsh!t mass index, as evidenced by Kate Harding's BMI project) is or to restrict kids from the yumminess of peanut butter cups. Instead we need a wholesale reorganization of how school lunches are funded and to teach our kids how to sniff out the B.S. in marketing and commercials. We need to stop seeing physical education and recess as something only good, wealthy and/or smart kids get to engage in.

For the record, parents should keep all their "chubby" comments in their head, and marketers should keep kids out of their chip-pushing strategies.

Now let's get moving!

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