This story was originally published in the Spring 2012 issue of Harker Quarterly
Lawyer and author Joel Bakan appeared at Harker’s upper school campus on Jan. 22 to discuss the topic of his latest book, “Childhood Under Siege: How Big Business Targets Children.” The book details the many increasingly insidious ways in which children are targeted by marketers, especially with the advent of the Internet and social media.
Concerned about the “increasingly brazen” tactics marketers use to target children, Bakan interviewed several leading marketers for the book and found them to be candid about their goals, proclaiming that their mission is “to uncover and then manipulate kids’ emotional hot buttons and desires” in order to sell their products.
Bakan also talked about how pharmaceutical companies have marketed more and more toward children in the last 30 years. “What I do think is happening is that there is a trend of overmedication,” which he partially attributed to those companies’ marketing tactics.
Fortunately, in recent years key laws have been passed that make it easier for consumers to know the risks in using prescribed pharmaceuticals. One law passed just this year requires pharmaceutical companies to disclose any payments they have made to doctors greater than $10, so that patients can find out if a doctor’s prescription of a certain drug is suspect.
“Being a good parent today requires more, as if it isn’t enough, than making good choices as individual parents,” he said. “I think we also have to work to change the conditions under which we and other parents are making those choices, and we also have to become active in demanding public measures that protect children from harm.”