Consumerism among children

September 17, 2011

The current model of consumerism forces one to think about the audience targeted by advertisements, and their consequential effect on the psychological, social and physiological development of human beings, children in particular. The consumer ideology robs a child of a fundamental part of personal development.

Children exposed to unbridled consumerism stop playing and start behaving like adults. They are often immature and their development may be retarded. According to eminent psychologists Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky, the school is the fundamental institution for a child's development. It helps him develop communication skills and contributes to his intellectual, emotional and social development. However, there is also a sense of competition and social inequality in the school environment. Those that do not fit in are excluded.

A child exposed to the consumer model unconsciously believes that he needs a particular game, toy or another possession to fit into a group. Paradoxically, this same object is also used as a differentiator between people, thus causing the exclusion of those who have no coveted object to compete with.

According to the North American Dietetic Association's Borzekowiski Robinson, it only takes 30 seconds for a brand to influence a child. In Brazil for example, unlike other countries such as Sweden, England, Belgium, the USA, Germany, Canada, Denmark, Ireland, The Netherlands, Austria, Italy, Greece, Portugal and Norway, there is no regulation to limit advertising aimed at children.

There is no control, and advertisers are free to pursue profits unethically and without sparing a thought for children's well-being. The scenario in Oman is a complete reversal of roles. Children are routinely exposed to reality, and may resort to stealing to fulfil their wishes. They may experience a difficult adolescence and be prone to childhood obesity, early sexualisation, and premature use of tobacco and alcohol due to family stress. They may even become violent if their wishes are not fulfilled and if they feel they are socially unequal.

According to the socio-historical perspective of Vygotsky, man is a product of social interaction. It is therefore necessary to restructure the social scene in Oman, as well as and in the world, so that children do not fall victim to consumerism and other ills.

Laura Do Vale is a trained clinical psychologist as well as a neuro-psychologist with over ten years of practice. She is currently doing her PhD from the University of Estremadura, Spain. She has practiced at the trauma unit of the Central Hospital of S. Jose; at the oncology unit at Capuchos Hospital, the Children’s Hospital at Dona Estefânia and as the pneumologist at the Hospital of Sta Marta, Lisboa – Portugal. She now works at Muscat Private Hospital.