Would it be overly dramatic to compare working in children’s media to having a superpower? Well, when you create content for kids (be it shows, apps, marketing), it’s like being able to get into their houses, sometimes all at once. That is a power and, as Spider-Man says, with great power comes great responsibility.
Last weekend, the 8th international Consuming Kids Summit was held in Boston and Erin McNeill has posted some of the important takeaways from that here. Especially interesting to me is the comparison to the tobacco industry. Firstly, because it comes from Alex Bogusky, a modern day Don Draper who famously quit and said that it was immoral to advertise to children and, secondly, because who wants to wake up and realise they are today’s tobacco industry?
Another point well worth considering is the last one on the page, about responsibility. We can try and try to shift responsibility to the parents and, sure, parents are responsible for what they do. But, as a parent myself even being very aware of media messages, it is so hard to compete with the millions spent on marketing, whether targeting my children or not (my kids know all the TV heroes – Mickey Mouse, Peppa Pig, Cilit Bang’s Barry Scott).
Ultimately, we are responsible for what we create. We are responsible for the choices we give to parents and their children.
So where does that leave us as content creators, writers or producers?
We want children to watch our shows, don’t we? Of course we do. I know I do. So am I marketing to children? I guess with promos for my shows going out, I am. Would I love it if a Planet Cosmo toy hit the shelves and children wanted it? Yes, I would. I would be lying if I said I wouldn’t.
But that’s where that Spider-Man quote comes into play.
We can also do a lot of good with media. As I have said so often in this business – children are going to watch television. They are going to play games. They are going to play with toys. So we may as well make sure they’re getting good television, good games, good toys. Content that enriches, educates and, yes, entertains too. Content that works with parents.
Not everyone is going to agree on what good content is and so we need to draw our own lines. To do so, I think it’s important to keep up with things like the Consuming Kids Summit. Hearing the criticism is key. Listening. We may not always like what we hear but that means we need to listen even more. And then we can create better content or, if one day we find we don’t like where we are, choose not to make it at all.
For those possibly thinking this is all very idealistic, I’ll leave you with this thought – more and more parents are becoming aware about the media their children are consuming. Parents want their kids to do well. They want their children to grow up strong, confident, able to think independently, girls and boys alike. Good content for children is good business. You only have to look at Dora to see that – a show with educational content, positivity and a very strong active female main character.