An Expose of the Baby-Industrial Complex

This story I wrote years ago about how marketers prey upon the self-inflicted fears of new parents has been getting a lot of traffic of late, so I thought I’d give it a plug.

FIRST, LET’S DISPENSE WITH any pretense of objectivity, I am a paranoid, first-time parent. As I write this, my son Greg is playing quietly and contentedly in his room. At one year old, he coos, takes tentative steps, laughs, screams like the devil’s on his tail when he wants to, beats his arm in time to music (at least as well as his father), and in general seems to thoroughly enjoy his life.That’s why I’m convinced he’s autistic.

Either that or it’s another neurological malady no one will notice until it’s far too late. Yesterday he was scratching at a bug bite, and I instantly knew it was lyme disease. Today he is crying more than usual, which means he is undoubtedly suffering from the first horrible arthritic symptoms of the disease.

I am not alone in this private hell. My wife has diagnosed nearly as many ailments as I have. Her biggest fear seems to be breathing stoppage. Not choking, just immediate, independent cessation, sort of like spontaneous human combustion of the lungs. This is what exposure to too many warnings about sudden infant death syndrome will do to you.

All of which makes us only slightly less rational than any of the other new parents we know. It also makes us the perfect marks for the Baby Industrial Complex (BIC), whose motto seems to be: If You Scare Them, They Will Spend. The BIC’s ad campaigns have refined this application of guilt and fear to a fine art. Their message: You are a bad parent. Your child is going to die a horrible death unless you buy our products.

You can read the rest here if you want.

(BTW, just so you can gauge the accuracy of my predictions: Greg is fine and finishes sixth grade this month. Well, at least I think he’s fine — there’s always the chance he has … )

Study: “video games make kids violent, stupid and sick.” General: “Gamers make great soldiers.”

Oddly the video game study and the general’s comments are two separate stories over at The RawFeed.

In the first:

Researchers at the University of Michigan published a study in the Journal of Adolescent Health this week that found “exposure to virtual violence increases the risk that children and adults will behave aggressively.”

I forget, what did we blame it on before? Oh, yeah … TV. Before that it was comic books and before that it was movies and before that abstract painting and before that the waltz (true) and before that … well, I remember when Dungeons and Dragons was in the mix. The only way we’re going to take care of this problem and get back to our pre-lapsarian state of bliss is to eradicate the original source. All those in favor of banning Artisophanes, signify by saying Aye. The chair will also entertain motions to expurgate the Old Testament. (Congrats to U of M for getting so much exposure for something without blaming Facebook.)

At least one police official has gone further than suggesting a mere technology is to blame and has started to name Brand names:

New Zealand’s national manager of police youth services, Superintendent Bill Harrison, said this week that youth violence has “jumped” in the past two or three years worldwide, which he says coincides with the rise of advanced console games like the Xbox. His point is that better quality video games increase the realism of violence, which does a better job of desensitizing kids to the real thing.

So remember, nurturing parents buy the Wii. Does anyone ever study the number of people who play video games obsessively and DON’T turn into murderous thugs? No headlines in that, I guess. Or maybe there are studies about this and no one reports on them. Kind of an endless circle of stupidity.

Meanwhile, General Sir Richard Dannatt, head of the British Army, has found a bright side to video games warping kids today:

“There was a time when commentators and some more experienced members of the Army expressed concern as to whether the ‘PlayStation generation’ were up to dealing with the gritty bloody conflict that is routine business in southern Afghanistan and Iraq. Well, I’m pleased to say that they are. Our young soldiers, drawn from across British society, are more than a match for what is required of them and I salute every one of them.”

Clearly the more experienced members of the Army need subscriptions to The Journal of Adolescent Health.

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