On Morning Edition this morning, they had a brief interview with Susan Gregory Thomas, author of the new book Buy Buy Baby, about the insidious marketing of consumer products to babies, the day they're born.
Obviously, these products are really directed at parents, exploiting the anxiety every new parent feels about taking care of their babies. Marketers posit that if they can hook a "consumer" from Day 1 and make a life-long customer out of them, they can gross over $200,000 from that consumer in a lifetime. Clearly that all depends on the product and circumstance, but it's a sick business. She went on to talk about how useless "educational" toys are for babies, you know the ones that are supposed to "stimulate" certain areas of the brain? Well, as she so helpfully points out, everyday life is incredibly stimulating for babies already, and what most babies need most each day is time to not be stimulated, to just be still and quiet and process.
Colic has recently been attributed, perhaps, to overstimulation on sensitive babies. Their nervous systems simply get overloaded, and it causes them a great deal of stress and anxiety. That makes me think about how stressed out I get when I walk around in New York City with all that stimulation (I really do find it incredibly overwhelming), and how babies must feel day to day.
Another thing she pointed out that I thought was really interesting, and makes sense, but which I'd never thought about before is that babies, and often even toddlers, get absolutely nothing out of those "educational" TV shows like Barney, or the Teletubbies, or Dora the Explorer, except for character recognition, which is then used against them in advertising. That's why it works so well.
So, in the days before Baby Einstein, and before Barney, and before Thomas the Train, we actually had the real Einstein, and Mozart, and Shakespeare, and Freud, and Kubrick, and Darwin, and Marie Curie. Humans have been getting along just fine for a very long time without educational toys. I hope that if I ever have babies, I can remember that and not let my parental anxiety and guilt dupe me into this crap.