How Gaming, Media, Advertising Impacts Kids

Anecdotes From San Francisco Show Kids Taking Ads to Heart

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Sandra Pons, a substitute kindergarten teacher in San Francisco's public schools, knows the effects of kids' advertising and marketing first-hand.

At recess, she watches kids reenact the videogame Street Fighter II-karate-chopping, kicking and sometimes hurting each other.

"The violence transfers back to relationships in society," she says. Because many of these children don't have parents available to read to them, and are left alone to watch MTV or even adult movies, "they don't even know it's a problem until they are confronted by an adult," she says.

Practicing what she preaches, Ms. Pons refuses to let her 11-year-old son, Stephen, bring violent videogames home. And each year, when her nephews send their holiday wish lists, Ms. Pons quickly scratches off all the violent games.

"I am absolutely opposed to them," says Ms. Pons. "I think you can influence the direction a child goes in terms of interests."

Though Stephen, a 6th grader at Notre Dame des Victories Grammar School, says he doesn't watch as much TV as some classmates, he sees enough of it to dislike commercials because they interrupt shows. He really hates spots repeated frequently but finds humorous ones less annoying.

His favorite is the Lee jeans spot where a man dons a tight pair of jeans and his voice gets higher.

Ms. Pons, herself, sees little of the advertising to which her son is exposed.

"When I turn on television, it's 10 p.m. and the news is on," she says.

Ms. Pons worries that commercials, while not in themselves violent or inappropriate for young viewers, sometimes help create distorted purchase priorities for low-income families.

"The children come to school wearing those expensive sneakers with pumps, but when it gets very cold out, they just wear T-shirts and don't have a jacket to put on," she says.

Ms. Pons says she doesn't even buy those trendy items for Stephen. That's not to say that Stephen, an avid mountain biker, doesn't want some pricey items. He'd love to have a $3,000 titanium bike frame advertised in a bicycling magazine, but he knows better than to ask. His parents figure they went far enough when, as gifts, he received a $240 set of shock absorbers for the bike, as well as brake shifters and tires.

She believes strongly that it's the job of parents, not media or advertisers, to rear children and set standards.

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