Consuming Kids: The Hostile Takeover of Childhood

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


All too often, media discussions of children swing between vague pieties
(“The children are our future”) and shrill hysteria (“A nipple! Children saw a nipple!”). Thankfully,
Susan Linn — who was mentored by Fred Rogers and teaches psychiatry at Harvard Medical School — avoids
pious scolding in Consuming Kids. She provides instead a measured, but ultimately devastating,
critique of consumerism and American childhood.

Children influence some $600 billion in annual spending, and marketers,
as Linn amply documents, will stop at nothing to harness this kiddie-consumer juggernaut. Of the
head-shaking stats and anecdotes Linn supplies, perhaps the most repulsive is the “nag factor
study,” which identified the parents most susceptible to “pester power,” whose kids thus make
the most profitable advertising targets.

Linn admirably refuses to soft-pedal the complexity of the issues involved.
She is well aware, for example, that any attempts to shield children from the “marketing maelstrom”
will butt up against free-speech concerns. But those battles have already been won in parts of Europe
and Canada, and need to be fought here: The problem is “not just that kids are consuming,” she concludes.
“They’re being consumed.”

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest