A Shaping Youth Roundup of Kids’ Media/Mktg. Notables

clocksandglass.jpgI left my ‘round-up’ ritual back in my editorial magazine days but my au courant colleagues and content partners have worthy ones so I’ll defer to their musings.

Ypulse publisher, Anastasia Goodstein posted “Reflections on the year in youth culture” which gets my vote for the most articulate wrap up of four key trends:

The ‘totally wired’ media culture, the ‘celebutante girls gone wild’ phenom, the growing backlash against rampant consumerism and marketing to youth, (hey, that’s us!) and the rebirth of youth activism. (harnessing massive media mindshift toward the positive…Good magazine is a nice start, as is inching toward sustainability in a global worldview.

Shaping Youth will post a “BRAND New Year” focus on brain-scanning research and technology showing product persuasiveness and stickiness really DOES matter with kids…No sci-fi Vonnegut paperback here; this stuff is real, quantifiable, and gives a whole new meaning to ‘age compression’ putting science behind corporate coffers trying to ‘get ’em while they’re young.’

I asked our tween podcast crew about branding and they did the usual ‘we’re not impacted’ shrug followed by buzzing the usual suspects, Tag, Axe, Juicy, Hollister, American Eagle, “A+F” etc. before we began to peel back some of the counter-marketing and messaging ‘reveals’. Fascinating shift of the zeitgeist captured on audio…a few may even think twice about becoming human billboards sans critical thinking.

Meanwhile, here are a few more of my favorite, notable trendtrackers impacting youth:

Our own Packaging Girlhood team of Shaping Youth Advisory Board members posted a fascinating Best/Worst list for ’06.

Dr. Sharon Lamb & Dr. Lyn Mikel Brown will join us in the next couple of weeks for a Shaping Youth feature on the marketing of ‘pink think’ (including, ugh, toxic pink cigarettes and energy drinks and what this all means for girls’ health in the ‘thin-slicing’ brand niche arena) egad

In reading their picks, I guess I’m perhaps ONE of those “talking heads” they mention that are still interested in hearing more about the media and marketing impact on boys, too.

Shaping Youth is focusing our next round of podcasts on tween and teen boy research, since boys are being targeting by companies like Riot Media and gaming like Xbox Live and new beta MMORPGs in development are bumping up the media mix.

We’ll look at authors giving back, like James Patterson’s $500K PageTurner Awards given to those encouraging youth reading. And we’ll applaud fun music exchange sites like Lala where you can swap CDs for a buck and listen to member created radio stations. (talk about ‘user generated content!)

My favorite audio roundup of pertinent youth podcasts comes from the U.K. team called MediaSnackers. Shaping Youth will do a podcast with them in the New Year as well, and we’re watching where we can align and partner to further our mutual goals toward more positive messaging for kids.

For other positive picks, Canadian social media guru and creative director Collin Douma posts a wonderful link-fest of embedded “you” links riffing off the Time coverstory of the year’s end; along with a round-up of interesting sites under “RSS Food” (as in nourishment). You’ll find Shaping Youth under “social thinkers”.

Finally, I’ll conclude with my ‘out with the old’ plea for the New Year, since plenty has been written about the sexual imagery, productization & desensitization of young girls…The NY Times had a poignant rant a few hours ago called “Middle School Girls Gone Wild” about profiteering and pornification of childhood…spot on.

The voyeuristic twisting, writhing, pole-dancing and lap-strutting emulated by tots and tweens goes far beyond ‘flexibility.’ (couldn’t we stick to yoga and pilates trends for the ‘exercise’ culture?)

It seeps into performances ranging from cheerleading tryouts to talent shows for kids. It’s not only disturbing, it’s soul eroding on the emotional health front for children as their identities of what’s valued in our culture melds into myopic mush.

Our documentary film on the K-5 playgrounds, “Body Blitz: Media, Shaping Youth” bears this out…

This phenom goes WAY beyond “dance” or “athletics” into little Lolitas under 10 pushing their pelvises with prepubescent prowess, sans even a blink from the desensitized masses. Bleh.

Give or take a NYTimes reporter, or crankypants mom like me, the year has come to a close with deafening silence in terms of the ‘outrage’ component…

BUT…there’s a backlash brewing and it’s veering toward using media and marketing in positive, meaningful directions…so hope springs eternal and the evidence is there.

Youth want it, parents plea for it, and the world needs it…

…A shift away from vapid values and grey-matter nothingness into content with purpose and meaning.

I’m confident the backlash has begun. As always, Shaping Youth is not about pulling the brakes, just switching the track toward more positive worldviews for us all…

All aboard?! Here’s to a brighter, new year ahead…



  1. Thanks for the ‘shout-out’ – an honour to be mentioned in the same piece as many other more worthy peeps – here’s to 2007, where dreams and experiences meet 🙂


  2. Hey.

    Thanks for the link and the kind words!
    Happy new year!

  3. What would you say are the top 10 social network (and other) sites that are affecting/influencing/targeting teens and tweens? (ages 12-19)

    A few of the “usual suspects” are Myspace and Flickr — but surely there are some other notable players (and wanna be players) that deserve mention. What about “Second Life”? How about some of the “imports” that are making inroads such as Cyworld?

  4. I wrote about Teen Second Life (see sidebar post)re: Global Kids Digital Initiative. Habbo, SixApart’s Vox, LiveJournal, all the ones you mentioned, there are tons. Here’s a roundup article w/a list at the end:

    Re: Younger kids/tweens: Obviously with the COPPA rules, the under 13 demographic has high safety concerns, but I’m keeping my eye on ‘safe’ social networking environs & virtual worlds via spots like Penguin Club, imbee, zoeysroom, along with Whyville & the usual suspects there etc.

    FTC guidelines for teen/tween social media safety:
    But my favorite is blogsafety.com as they have a teen forum that’s always fascinating.

    The marketers targeting youth are WAY too numerous to mention. A quick peek at 360youth.com will give you a feel for it with Alloy being the behemoth in that arena…

    Hope that helps? –Amy

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