Children and Commercials
This school has, as all schools do, some celebrations for Children’s Day. And as it happens so often there is a sponsor who wants to conduct some activities for children on that day. As part of the programme, he also parks his product centrally in the school premise. Bankers, car manufacturers, home developers, online vendors – everyone uses these opportunities in schools or housing colonies to conduct an art competition, cookery or spelling contest – just anything to jump into the fray. The next step would be to deliver talks to children about the product. Or, offer incentives to teachers to promote their product during PTMs. I know a publication house who offered teachers a fancy bag for procuring orders for their books from her class children.
Children being exploited for labour or trafficking draws widespread protests. Rightly so. There are laws framed for this. But what about laws against using children to sell products? An obnoxiously smug girl ridicules another kid for using some hand wash. Indirectly taunting the kid’s mother for her choice of brand. Since when did children start washing their hands as if it was some sacred ritual or joyous activity? Most kids have to be scolded to wash their hands before a meal and they do it so grudgingly.
There is another over smart boy who brings a potted plant to class and when the teacher remarks that his plant is healthier than those of his classmates, he says proudly that he has used water from a popular brand of water purifier. At which, the teacher beams appreciatively. What callousness this, in a country where most of the population do not have access even to safe drinking water! In the environmental awareness class, children are not only taught water conservation, but also told that plants grow as well in recycled water. The consumer for all these products is not the child, but what better way to get at people than through their children.
Let’s be alert and wake up before our children become ‘branded’.