Back To School Campaigns That Promote Consumerism in Children

It has been a very, very long break, it looks like it has been almost a year since I posted anything here. I thought I'd get a lot of *free* time when my son started school, but it didn't work as I expected. Anyway, this post is going to be a very long rant, something that bothers me a lot these days.

We live in a time when success is measured in terms of the materialistic possessions of a person and his abilities to acquire more.Gone are the times when shopping was done for necessity. Now we need retail therapy to relax and have fun. Living in the UAE means you don't need any big reason to shop. If it is winter, we have to shop because it is the season of the DSF (Dubai Shopping Festival). In the summer, there is DSS- Dubai Summer Surprise. In the meanwhile, we have many other campaigns to drill a hole in our wallets and now since the schools are reopening after the summer break, we have the Back To School campaigns. We are bombarded with flyers and pamphlets from supermarkets with a big list of products from 5 piece school bag *sets* to junk foods sold on a bundle as back to school offers.

One of the most disturbing facts about these Back to School campaigns is the way these things are directly marketed to children at a very young age. The Education "Industry" is a billion dollar industry in the UAE, and the market size of school supplies and school bags are more than 2 billion Saudi Riyals. I am sure UAE will be very close to Saudi on that regard. Considering the market of this size, Childhood marketing is a big thing in the Middle East and millions of dollars are spent for making them pester the parents to buy more. As a parent, I just love to buy things that he needs and sometimes what we wants and who wouldn't want to spend on their children's school essentials at the time he needs it the most? I have no problem buying a nice, new bag for my son, even with a picture of a normal car on it. But I really don't like it when he insists on buying that expensive Hotwheels or "Cars" branded bag, t shirt or even a lunch box, just for the sake of a small logo or a picture of the Cars character appearing on the item. Even more disturbing is when he demands for candies and junk foods that have a picture of a Cars character on it. My son would always ask for that Kinder Egg shaped chocolate just for the sake of the car toy even though he never likes to eat it.

Marketing to young children has consequences one could never imagine. From obesity to loss of family values, there are unimaginable problems that may arise from letting our children fall a prey to the childhood marketing tactics. It is very sad that children are very quickly adapting to consumerism from a very, very early age.You can read a whole list of issues from the website Campaign for Commercial Free Childhood. 

According to the American Psychological Association,
Research has found strong associations between increases in advertising for non nutritious foods and rates of childhood obesity. Most children under age 6 cannot distinguish between programs and advertising and children under age 8 do not understand the persuasive intent of advertising. Advertising directed at children this young is by its very nature exploitative. Children have a remarkable ability to recall content from the ads to which they have been exposed. Product preference has been shown to occur with as little as a single commercial exposure and to strengthen with repeated exposures. Product preferences affect children's product purchase requests and these requests influence parents' purchasing decision

Don't you feel enraged watching the above advertisement? Even worse, they have another ad targeting girls separately too. What it means for a family is that brothers and sisters can't even swap their lunchboxes and pencil boxes. The gender based marketing is so intense that a six year old boy can never use his sister's barbie lunch box or Disney Princess pencils. Schools are there for our children to learn and play and not for them to flaunt their bags and shoes. Also, as a parent I must decide what is best for them and it is absolutely unfair for the businesses to target kids at an age when they are not capable of making decisions.

A couple of years back, I even wrote a post on how almost all the supermarkets here in Dubai and Sharjah heavily market junk food brands to children in their Back to School campaigns.

Of course, it is a part of their childhood to like their favourite cartoons,  but as parents we must make sure that doesn't make them obsessed with it. The Spiderman and Superman do unimaginable things, and I always get paranoid when my son happens to watch them by chance. How many unpleasant incidents have taken place due to children copying these characters without knowing they don't exist in reality? In my view, the anorexic Disney Princesses and Frozen characters which would make girls live in a world of fantasy, idolizing their artificial beauty, dreaming about a prince who never exist in the real world are definitely a big hurdle in their learning and development.

I sincerely hope that this unethical practice stops soon and it is equally important for us as parents to be careful about preserving their childhood.

You can also read the following articles to know more about the dangers of Consumerism among Children:

1. Endangered Childhood: How Consumerism is impacting child and youth identity

2. Children as Consumers


  1. Well said sis! My kids have been at that stage and Alhamdulillah never pestered. I guess children outgrow it. As parents we should be choosy as to what you give them. They learn by looking at us so we should be good role models. If they see that we don't fall into consumerism I'm they'll follow along.


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