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Archive for February, 2012

Goodbye Bear (In the News)

The Associated Press report in their creatively titled article “Berenstain Bears Co-creator Jan Berenstain Dies” that Jan Berenstain, one of the creators (the other was her husband Stan) of the beloved Berenstain Bear book series has passed away. On Thursday Feb.23, Berenstain suffered from a severe stroke which ultimately resulted in her death, at the age of 88, on Friday.

Selling over 260 million copies from it’s start in 1962, the Berenstain Bear book collection was often applauded for educating, and soothing, children on common childhood concerns “like dentist visits, peer pressure, a new sibling or summer camp.” Prior to this series, however, the couple made quite the lucrative living by participating in another popular children’s medium, comics. The Berenstain couple was well known for their children targeted comic, “All in the Family”, which ran in magazines such as Good Housekeeping and McCall’s.

Mike and Leo Berenstain had recently collaborated on a few books with their mother that also tackled the modern issues of “online safety and childhood obesity” and furthermore reenforce their mother’s lifetime of making children happy through her own love of writing. Because of his mother’s desire to continue this type of entertainment for children, Mike also says he will maintain his illustrative an writer’s position with Berenstain books.

This connects so closely with not only our continuing theme of whether or not different popular mediums are successful at teaching kids educational tools as well as moral values conducive to Western culture, but it also lets the reader know just how influential the comic book industry was. It provides a stark contrast to what critics of comic books maintained about the lack of moral content in this type of reading. It has also now been picked up by PBS as an educational show for children of younger ages.

 

The Berenstain Bears and Too Much TV, book by the Berenstain family

 

Wringer

The first book I remember reading cover to cover (without being required to), was Wringer by Jerry Spinelli, published by HarperCollins in 1997.  It tells the story of ten year old Palmer LaRue, who is faced with a moral dilemma.  In Palmer’s hometown, it is a tradition for all the boys who have turned ten to wring the necks of injured pigeons on Pigeon Day. Thousands of pigeons are released and shot as a way to raise money for the city park. This is considered an honor and a rite of passage for the boys. Everyone around seems to be looking forward to it, except Palmer. The idea of it tortures him; he is taunted by the thought.  He even ends up taking in a pet pigeon, who he names Nippy. The only person who knows about his new pet is Dorothy, his best friend, who is also against the festivities on Pigeon Day.

Palmer fakes enthusiasm to fit in with his guy friends so that he is considered “cool”. On Pigeon Day, Palmer finds out that Dorothy accidently let Nippy out of his cage near the area where pigeons are captured for the festival. Palmer rescues an injured Nippy from the shooting zone in front of the entire town. The story ends with a little boy, while watching Palmer, tell his father he wants a pet pigeon.

We have talked a lot in class about the gender roles in children’s toys and books. This book is the exact opposite of the gender focused books described by Elizabeth Segel. Palmer is not very adventurous and he relates more to his best friend Dorothy than the popular boys in his class, Mutto, Henry and Beans. There is definitely male focused comedy associated with these three boys, (bathroom jokes, etc). The combination of the soft thoughts of Palmer and the rowdy boys in his class allows for this book to be appreciated by both boys and girls.

I never understood until recently why this book meant so much to me. At the point when I was reading this I was eight years old, so I did not think much about it. Looking back today I realize it is because the story is about a boy who does not fit into his society’s idea of what a boy should be or act. I was a girl faking it with my friends and family, though I did not know why. Now I know why I felt so different, I am gay. Palmer’s story of fighting for how you feel inside, even though everyone around you may reject you, is something that sticks with me to this day. This book bends the gender roles we have established for our children. It says: be who you want to be, no matter what the world is telling you.

Hollywood Harms Youth’s Health?

Parents, activists, and numerous other adults have been afraid of the corruption that media such as comics, television, and movies have on the youth that they are aimed towards.  David Hajdu’s The 10 Cent Plague was all about the moral panics and issues that comic books caused throughout the United States.  In Chapter 5, Puddles of Blood, Hajdu talks about the shift in superhero comic books to crime comics.  When this change came about, many people were outraged and did not like the idea of kids reading about crime (granted they were aimed towards young adults, not young children).  People were afraid kids would start acting on the things they read about.  They were worried the youth would become a violent and immoral generation.  While these youth (now adults) did not grow up to be extremely violent people, we still have similar issues with today’s culture.

Hollywood is responsible for just about everything we see on television and in movies.  Lots of adults still worry about the violence and gore involved in these movies, but we have developed more recent panics.  One of the most often talked about: smoking.  Just about every movie or television show aimed at teenagers or older has a plethora of scenes in which people are smoking.  More specifically: young adults.  You may not always notice it (because it is so commonplace most people tend not to think about it), but it is definitely there.  Many adults think that kids will take after the actors they see and pick up the harmful habit of smoking.  This frightens parents the most.  A lot of parents don’t address this issue, while some parents simply talk to their kids about it.  Others, like the ones in Saratoga, Warren, and Washington counties in New York will take action.  Last Wednesday, 300 adults and children gathered at a movie theater in Clifton Park, New York for “The Smoke Free Movies Initiative International Week of Action” – an anti-tobacco campaign lead by the youth to teach the youth.  For some kids, it is easier to listen to someone they can relate to more (around the same age) talk about these kinds of things than adults, who may seem old and outdated in their thinking.

http://fortedward.wnyt.com

While I do agree that smoking is bad for your health, I do not think that these images in movies and television shows lead kids down a path to smoke.  It is important for these organizations to be running anti-tobacco campaigns, targeting movies and television may not be the best strategy.  I have found that the majority of young adults tend to pick up smoking from peers at college, rather than from the images that Hollywood engrains in their heads.  If these organizations could find ways to bring these campaigns to campus’ around the country, that may be more effective than to high school and middle school age kids.

Television vs Parents: Which Carry Greatest Influence on Children?

   

According Writt, Children watch TV more than doing anything else besides sleeping.

    Susan D. Witt is a professor in the School of Family and Consumer Sciences at The University of Akron where her courses of study are among the topics of “Developmental Parent-Child Interaction“ and “Child Development.”  She has numerous publications concerning gender bias influences on children; however her most controversial influence, in my opinion, is her depiction on the gender bias influence of Television.  At the start of “The influence of television on children’s gender role socialization,” Witt attributes multiple factors of society to have an influence on what our children decide to internalize such as: Parents, Media, Schools, Family, and the Society they live in.  Only, Witt focuses primarily on Television’s influence as she goes on in her writing.

   According to Witt’s research cited in her publication, children tend to “spend more time watching Television than doing anything else except sleeping.”  Children are exposed to hours of sex, crime, and violence driven scenes.  She describes women being depicted as “passive, indecisive, and subordinate to men” and conversely, men are show to take more initiative, more of a problem solver, and also more powerful than their female counter parts.  Witt then inserts a list on what the National Institute of Mental Health has determined gender bias in television to later strengthen her argument as she goes on to describe different cartoons and shows and how they portray gender to further perpetuate society’s bias. 

   Witt’s argument on the effects of Television in the media shows how much research has been done on the topic as she uses much citation throughout her article.  Since Television first started reaching the medium of society, “educators, citizen groups, the clergy and other social organizations have attacked television for its unwholesome effects on children” (Spigel, 144).  According to Spigel, television perpetuated the notion that women belong in the home or employed as nurturers and caregivers.  Spigel then chooses to speak about Bart’s character in The Simpsons, but he never touches on the fact that Marge and Lisa are depicted as more intelligent than the male characters. 

   I think Witt should of incorporated more of what these production companies felt about their gender bias influence on children or whether they even feel they are responsible.  Howard P. Chudacoff’s publication, “Children at Play,” does so more effectively as he summarizes the debate between companies and society’s feminist.  Companies had a different outlook, that children choose to watch shows that were already perpetuated in their home and the society around them.  The feminist however would disagree stating in Witt’s writing, “TV programs has the effect of creating artificial gender differences in children’s behavior. (Chudacoff 180-81) 

   Maybe the production companies are right.  Maybe feminist should worry less about what is aired on television and concentrate more on what is perpetuated and taught at home.  As a child, I saw everything from the good, the bad, and the ugly on television, but my mother made sure I knew right from wrong.  She would watch programs with me and tell me, “that doesn’t really happen in real life” or even “you could do that if you wanted to.”  The exposure did not hurt me, it helped me.  It, along with parental commentating, gave me tons of examples of what was realistic and unrealistic in the world today.  Do I believe it is worth the effort to raise awareness about what is on television?  Not exactly, however I do believe we should raise social awareness for the actual people in society interacting daily with our youth.

Coca-Cola Soccer Kit

The year was 2001, and I was 9 years old. My dad had come across a pair of tickets to a home game for Honduras’s national football team against Mexico, and asked me whether I wanted to come along with him. I’ve heard that every man at some point during his life takes, as a wife, one sport. While he may be unfaithful at times by engaging in other sports, it is to this sport to which he will be permanently bound for the remainder of his life. My father’s sport was baseball. That probably explains why, unlike every other child in Honduras, I lacked any sort of familiarity on football and did not partake in the religious fervor that its fans tend to engage. That all changed on a chilly October day in 2001. Out of pure curiosity for the event my school friends had been ranting about for the last month or so, I agreed to go with my dad (mostly because I wanted to know what made football more interesting than Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea, which despite my high praise had somehow failed to elicit anything more than a “whatever” from my friends). Once at the stadium, a wave of excitement drifted over me and I ran ahead of my dad so that I could see where the deafening noise was coming from. Then I saw it. The green pitch, the chanting fans, the waving flags. They say when you meet the love of your life time stops, and that’s true. I felt like I stood there for an entire lifetime before my dad snapped me out of it and walked me to our seats. There isn’t enough space in this post to describe how I felt during that game, but suffice to say Honduras won by three goals, and I had fallen in love for the first time in my life.

Following the game, and to advertise Honduras’s campaign towards reaching the 2002 World Cup in Korea/Japan, Coca-Cola (the national team’s main sponsor) released a kit that included a soccer ball and the two small goals. You could not buy the ball in stores- it could only be purchased by redeeming 12 proof of purchase stamps from qualifying products. To promote the kit, Coca-Cola aired commercials showing the national team’s players doing tricks with the ball and scoring into the goals. The day after the game my friends (not a single one surprised at my overnight transition from indifferent to obsessed about football) and I consumed more Coca-Cola than should be humanly possible and redeemed our purchases to the nearest distribution center. Every week one of us would get to keep our new found treasure at their house, with possession changing hands on Fridays. Every Friday we would set up the goals on somebody’s street, place the ball in the center of our “field”, and a metamorphosis would occur. The walls around us turned to fans. The asphalt beneath us turned to beautiful grass. We were no longer children, but instead became our idols. Afterwards we refreshed ourselves with (big surprise!) ice-cold Coca-Colas.

Thinking back, this is a perfect illustration of the phenomena described by Howard Chudacoff in Children at Play:

Advertisers quickly learned that they could merge a “backstory” of fantasy with a product to create a meaningful relationship between product and child. The licensing from movies, television programs, and sports gave toys a very explicit significance… most children understood the product in a way that most adults did not. (Course Packet page 180)

In Honduras the vast majority of children (especially boys) loved Honduras’s national team, regardless of whether or not they liked football. It was a way we all bonded, came together, existed as one. There were no boys and girls, no kids and adults, no rich and poor. For 90 minutes, we were all just Honduran. Coca-Cola used that indescribable (at least to children) feeling of belonging, of unison, to advertise their product. By merging the national team and Coca-Cola products, the line between them became blurred. We saw Coca-Cola as the moment when a player made an extraordinary dribble, or as the feeling when all the crowd roared and danced when Honduras would score a goal. Coca-Cola became pure, unfiltered happiness. I saw anyone that chose Pepsi over Coca-Cola as hating the very core of being Honduran, of conspiring to deprive us all of the joy of qualifying for the World Cup. Many of my friends shared those sentiments. The kit Coca-Cola provided took it all a step further. After watching their commercials, we all wanted to use the same ball that the players used, and to score goals into the same posts that they did. We wanted to dribble the same, and shoot the same. We came to believe that the “magic” the players had was a product of the Coca-Cola ball itself. The ball and goals became mystical figures, items that when in our possession made our skill-set limitless. We were capable of any trick, could score any goal, and would eventually make our way into the national team to play alongside our idols. My parents and many adults did not and could not understand why we felt so strongly about these kits. How could they, after all? They were too old to play on the national team, so we figured they would never understand. Those days we existed for one ideal- “Joga Bonito”, play beautifully…

Coca-Cola Ball, courtesy of the Coca-Cola Store

Honduras National Team sponsored by, you guessed it, Coca-Cola. Courtesy of ElHeraldo.hn

Children are Big hands in economic! but A Nubie that need to be learned.

In the book of Howard P. Chudacoff, ” Children at Play”, used quotation that”Children have become a Market-often referred to as ‘subteens; by people who apparently see them mainly as avid little consumers and can’t wait for them become bigger, teenage consumers.”(176).  This statement is very true that Children are Big hands in economic, and they have money power now days. Therefore there are many of researches about their economic characteristic and news and article to help parents to teach kids how to handle Money.

Chart from "marketingcharts.com"

From the book, preteen money spending rate  400% increase from 1989 to 2002 (176).  Children’s consuming patterns were simple, but since their expenditures has been immensely increased, their consuming patterns have been diversifying. Most of their money spending were candy, snacks, or beverage however,now, toys are first place for both boys and girls. And also there are consuming pattern difference between boys and girls.  ”-Boys are also more likely to spend their money on video games and collecting cards. -Girls are more likely to use their money to buy clothing. -Younger kids prefer educational games or toys that tap into their natural creativity and imagination.” (marketingchart.com). Video games are conspicuously increased as IT industry is developed.

As children’s money spending is increasing, their parents’ worries about children’s money spending habit are also getting bigger. Maybe these common worries make them find article like todays. There is news article”Tips for teaching kids about money” from news Channel 5, Florida.  It teaches and advices parents tips for three age group of kids. It separates ages from ‘preschool’, ‘K-8′ to ‘high school and college’. For few example from one of each age group in the articles, preschool Kids should not be rewarded or paid for everything they do. You may give money for helping some chores, but it shouldn’t be rewarded every time. For k-8, help them buy few shares of  company stocks that they like, Nintendo or coca-cola. For high school and college, introduce them about credit card and how they handle it. We may find more tips from this site, and more site.

 

Playmobil Empire

I blame the occasional lower back pain I experience today on the years I spent bent over on my bedroom floor playing with the toys that dominated my childhood, Playmobils. The plastic dolls and furniture produced by the Playmobil line provided me with countless hours of entertainment. For years, the carpet of my bedroom remained unseen, and in its place was the Playmobil empire I had constructed.

The Playmobil Company was founded by the Brandstätter Group, headquartered in Zirndorf, Germany. The Playmobil was first introduced at the International Toy Fair in Nuremburg in 1974, and in 1975 Playmobil went global. The first Playmobil sets offered revolved around the themes of: knights, construction, and Indians. Once Playmobils hit the market, they were an instant success amongst children, and continue to maintain their popularity today.

Playmobil produces a variety of thoroughly detailed and realistic-looking toys, ranging from plastic dolls to plastic mansions furnished with plastic Playmobil furniture. The dolls, male or female/ adult or child, all have big smiles, no noses, and all sport different outfits, hairstyles, skin color, and more. Playmobil also provides children with lavish furniture to decorate your Playmobil home with. Playmobil products are typically sold in sets, so the price ranges based on the Playmobil item or set that you purchase. Typically, Playmobil dolls cost around $3.00 sans any additionally accessories, and sold sets can cost anywhere between $10.00-$100.00. The lucky children who somehow manage to persuade their parents into buying them a three-story house or castle pay as much as $160.00.

Playmobil creates hundreds of different play sets based around various themes, and one might conclude that some sets are designed with the intentions of being geared towards a certain gender. Howard P. Chudacoff mentions in his work, “The Commercialization and Co-optation of Children’s Play, 1950 to the Present”, that some theorize boys and girls to have different play habits and interests. Chudacoff states: “Boys were said to desire power and thus needed to be represented as playing with action toys that emphasized success…by contrast, consultants assumed that girls craved glamour and were more likely than boys to sit indoors where they quietly played with dolls and games” (180). Playmobil offers children a variety of sets based around differing themes. One such set is pirate themed, and comes equipped with a ship and dolls accessorized in pirate gear. Another set offered by Playmobil is a nursery set, which comes with a crib, rocking chair, baby doll, and more. Chudacoff mentions that boys are more prone to play with action toys, whereas girls prefer “glamour” and quieter activities. If these assumptions are correct, then in order for Playmobil to market to both genders they need to create action and adventure orientated toys as well as ones that “glamour” and nurturing themed, hence the pirate ship set and the nursery set.

Chudacoff also includes an argument made by Susan Linn pertaining to the idea that toys today no longer encourage creativity. Linn believes that: “Traditional construction toys such as Legos and Lincoln Logs no longer come boxed as collections of materials that would encourage a child to use them freely. Rather, she observes, they are packaged in “kits,” complete with explicit instructions…for putting the blocks together” (“The Commercialization and Co-optation of Children’s Play, 1950 to the Present”, 185). In contrast to Linn’s argument, I believe that Playmobils prompt children to use their imagination, whether it be freely choosing how to decorate a room with Playmobil furniture, or imaging that your bedroom floor is the ocean that your Playmobil pirate ship rides on. Playmobil simply provides children with realistic-looking toys, and the rest of the play is up to the child. As a kid, playing with my Playmobils meant entering an imaginative world, a world in which these plastic toys allowed me to construct a town, zoo, or any other setting that I could imagine.

Playmobil kitchen and dining set sold at Toys R Us for $29.99.