Friday, June 12, 2015

The Commercialization of Parenting and other Trends

Back when I had my first child, 2000, the internet was not like today!  No Facebook!  There were some forums, etc, but most parenting advice still came from magazines, books, doctors, grandmothers, the Sears catalogue and our own instincts.  Flash forward even just five years, and what a difference!  Suddenly, we can get the opinions and expertise of thousands of strangers to guide us in our parenting journey.  I noticed at the same time that parenting was becoming very commercialized.  There were gadgets, toys, tools, apps, for every parenting need you can imagine.  Look through a parenting magazine, and you'll learn through the advertising that you never need to hold your baby.  Straight from carseat to bouncer to exersaucer to Jolly Jumper to crib to stroller.  Swings came with speakers, heaters, vibrators, multi-directional and random movements to replicate being held.  Everything you need to feed your baby can be bought at Babies R Us.  Forget about the old ways, Grandma is ancient.  Get with the new century.

While new health reports have changed the way alcohol and tobacco is advertised in Canada, similar health reports have not been able to touch the formula advertising industry.  The "may cause" is too small.  People don't want to read the "may cause" concerns, because millions of babies get formula, and they're all "fine".

Let's look at marketing in another industry.

You've decided you need a car.  You open up the first magazine at the hairdresser's, and inside the front cover is a big spread for Ford.  Wow, Ford is awesome.  Look at all those models!  You must go check out Fords!  You flip through the rest of the magazine, notice there are some other car ads, but they're smaller, and not at the front and the info about safety and consumer satisfaction just doesn't catch your eye.

You go on Facebook and announce you're getting a Ford.  Which one?  You don't have a lot of money though.  Several friends say "How awesome!" and "Congratulations!".  Then "Get the biggest you can afford" or "get the cheapest; they're all the same anyway".  Then, a few more speak up.  "How about a Toyota?  They have fewer need for repairs".  You reply, "No thanks, I'm going to take good care of it so I won't need repairs, and my ex-boyfriend's sister's babysitter's cousin is a mechanic so I won't have to pay for repairs".  Someone else says "If money is an issue, about about public transportation?"  "No way, that's for poor people!".  Someone else gives the little known idea of car-sharing. "WTF is that?!  No way am I sharing a car.  I might get residue from someone else's religion!".

You go to the Ford dealer and check out the cars.  Such variety, such price ranges!  How to choose?!  Yes, your friend said they're basically all the same, so go with the cheapest.  You do.

The problems start right away.  You have to fill up with gas on the way home.  You didn't think about have only a few dollars.  Gas runs out before the next pay day and what do you do?  THen it needs an oil change and you figure you can do it yourself...but do something wrong and now it needs repairs.  Then you start hearing a funny noise.  You ignore it for awhile, but it doesn't go away.  You can't get it over 80km/hr now.

You turn back to Facebook with your issues.  Friends start off "IDK, my Ford is awesome" and "Could it be this?  That?  This?  This?  This?" and that's too overwhelming so you ignore it all.  Someone suggests it could be cause it's a Ford and that was a bad choice.  "You're not supporting me and I'm blocking you!".  Then it gets worse...."should have bought a Toyota", "Bus passes can be written off your taxes", "I lost 30lb by walking everywhere".

Are these comments helpful?  The writers probably think so.  But to the poster, they're not.  They're in denial.  Ford was glossy, a big spread, obviously the best choice or it wouldn't have been at the front of the magazine!  Why would you question it?  They want your business, so they're not going to suck, are they?!

It is damn near impossible to give suggestions to others these days.  "That's your opinion!" they say when you suggest no infant cereal is needed.  "Babies are all different" they say when you suggest no cereal before six months.  "My doctor said 4 months is fine" they say when you say the current recommendation is six months.  You try to offer studies, health organizations official statements, and other data.  You remind them that baby cereal is less than 100 years old and was developed specifically for malnourished babies--not average babies. They refuse to see alternatives because they believe the advertising and magazines.  Formula and cereal wouldn't be sold so readily if it caused problems!  They were fed cereal at 2 months and are perfectly healthy.  It was good enough for their parents, it's good enough for their child.

On one hand, the internet has opened up a world of information most people could never have accessed before.  Yet, there are so many people that have narrowed down their minds like never before.  I don't get it.  People should be more critical, more investigative, more open minded, more willing to change when new info shows otherwise....but yet it seems people are putting blinders on to science, research, history, and are only open to names/brands they recognize.
True story--mom asks for other mom's opinions on when to start cereal.  You offer the latest statement made by Health Canada saying cereal is not needed.  You get told that's your opinion and everyone's entitled to their own opinion, and it doesn't help the mom asking the question.  WTF.  Sure--it IS my opinion, based on experts doing years of research.  Shouldn't research trump "I had it at 3 weeks and I'm fine"?

Another trend I hate...telling moms that they know best, they know their child better than the doctor and other moms, and do what they think is right.  Why would a new mom automatically know what's right/best?  Deciding to give cereal at 3 months is not an intrinsic, human response like wanting to hold a baby that's crying.  Why would mom be asking if she knew what was right?  People say "I knew my child was ready at 4 months!"...the biggest aspect to a baby's readiness for (any) food is the solidifying of the intestines and the production of digestive enzymes.  How the heck do all these moms know this about their babies?

I was at an OB/GYN's office.  They had a fancy tv screen with health info constantly changing.  One section was on circumcision.  It was all about what to expect, and the "pros".  NOTHING contrary or negative was shown.  I wonder what the circumcision rate of male babies born to moms at that practice is.  I'd love to compare to an office where there is no circumcision information offered.  Or, how about an OB/GYN's office that has reading material that is only pro-breastfeeding.  If the only magazines available were things like "Natural Parenting".  Would that have an impact?  Once again, Health Canada says circumcision is not necessary.  Why are doctors still promoting it?  Oh...they get paid cash when they do it.

Why are young people letting marketing decide their parenting strategies? We all want what's best for our babies.  But  how can they really think Nestle has their baby's best interest in mind when their profit depends on making parents think their products are necessary?

No comments: