Last week, I was dutifully matching my coupons with the sale ad while creating my grocery list. A.P. was hanging around, and asked if I could put “Totinos Pizza Rolls” on the list. This may not seem like a big deal, but he has never had Totinos Pizza Rolls. I certainly have nothing against them; I just have never bought them so it was strange to hear such a request.
I asked him what he knew about them. Immediately he turned into TV Zombie Kid and recited a commercial for them perfectly, even adding that they were “easy for moms and fun for kids.” This is a kid who watches TV, but usually videos and PBS. Commercials are not a part of his daily life.
Let me stop here to admit something. This is my area of parental weirdness. We all have them – you know what I am talking about. There is so much out there in the world that could potentially harm our kids, but different people pick different things to fixate on. Mine is commercials. I would not be understating my position to say that I am obsessed with not letting my kids watch commercials.
My husband (who watched a zillion commercials growing up but I have nevertheless effectively terrified him as well) and I sprang to action. Rather than buying the Totinos version, we promptly bought fixin’s to make “Binder” pizza rolls. We mixed peperoni, sauce, and cheese up and as a family, filled and wrapped about 48 wonton wrappers into a pizza roll shape. We made it a family event.
A.P. didn’t buy it for a second. While he enjoyed our home-made version, he contends that the Totino’s product is superior. So good, in fact, that “everyone is happy” when they eat them. He still can’t wait to get his hands on some.
Children under the age of 6 cannot distinguish commercials from the show they are watching. They don’t know they are being ‘sold’ to – they think they are being told the truth and don’t have the maturity to discern what is fact and what is just persuasion.
I am on the lookout for suggestions about how to counteract the effects of commercials. I realize it’s not realistic to raise a children who never see commercials, and I don’t want to. I want to give them the tools to make sense of them. Here is a small list of resources I have assembled; please feel free to leave a comment with any others that you know about, or with your thoughts on the matter!
New American Dream website
Buy, Buy Baby by Susan Gregory Thomas
New York Times article about companies withdrawing advertising of ‘junk food’ to children under 12.