"I mean, are having little bubbles in your shoes really going to make you jump 6 inches higher??! I don't think so!"
A kid, who is probably at least 30 now, said this in a video called "Buy Me That!" The teacher I am subbing for left this for the 6th grade Journalism Elective class and I loved it.
I heard horror stories from circa 1991 12 year-olds who had gotten hooked on New Kids and DJ Jazzy Jeff 900-numbers... Seriously, actual 11 year-olds were talking about how they got "addicted to 900 numbers, like you'd get addicted to anything else... It started with 2 or 3 calls a day, and then, I just LOVED it, I was making maybe 20 calls a day, spending hours on the phone!" One girl talked about how she "found out later the first minute was 2 dollars, and each minute afterwards was 45 cents." She had been "hooked for two months." Fortunately, her "mom called ATT and they took it off because they felt bad and they understood." FOR REAL?? And my parents thought it was bad when I talked to my friends or BOYS on the phone!
I heard kids talk about how Pogo Balls were in fact not all that easy OR FUN to play with (contrary to the advertisements), how it would be pretty hard to "dance like Paula Abdul in those Reeboks unless you put tacks or bottle caps on your shoes or something" ...
Anyway, then the current 6th-graders and I had a pretty honest discussion about advertising and how "everyone is always trying to sell you something" ... especially when you live in LA and the tension of commerce vs. culture is so blurred anyway.
I tried to emphasize the importance of not being passive to the media's influence on you, but instead really observing it and trying to think objectively about how and/or why they would be targeted to buy a certain thing. It's crazy because I think about how intense the world we live in right now is-- with the opportunities for access to INFINITE amounts of information, with the realities becoming more and more widely-understood about our environment and the negative impact we are having on it, with the extremely confusing conflicts/violence going on in the Middle East, in Africa, in cities AND suburbs across the U.S., and I am just floored that so many kids seem to care SO MUCH about clothes, shoes, cell phones, ipods, jewelry, and other material stuff... and seem so disengaged with the rest of it.
Anyway, I think a good place to start changing that is with teaching kids to ask questions, to challenge what they are being told, and to encourage them again and again to think for themselves. It really would do them and the world so much good!