Selling Children


My 11 year old son came home yesterday and told me he had learned something new at school. At his [advanced] age, he told me confidently, kids start to smell bad because they get grown-up hormones, and therefore they need deodorant. He shared with me the packet he got from school, a plastic bag filled with a small, bright red deodorant stick of Old Spice, Red Zone, and a booklet titled, “About You. Puberty and stuff,” all compliments of Procter & Gamble, Inc.

My son uncapped the stick and extolled the translucent ‘aqua gel’s’ great smell, then sniffed under his arm to convince me he should start using it. He reiterated his teachers warning about becoming known as ‘that kid that smells bad.’ Then he retrieved the little booklet and read to me the “No sweat!” page that tells about glandular development through puberty and why it’s important to use “deodorants or anti-perspirants to control the [unpleasant] smell.”

Unfortunately, the school failed to teach my son, and every other kid in his class, the risks of using deodorant and related products like make-up and perfumes. One quick search on the net reveals several types of cancer and other progressive, debilitating illnesses that are now being correlated with using many of the popular body products.

Breast cancer, Alzheimers, and a slew of neurological disorders, study after study points to the potential for long term damage when people rub artificial compounds into their skin, especially young skin of developing bodies. While we can all argue the validity of these studies, and Procter & Gamble and their like do, loudly, there are simply too many clinical trials showing a link between using body products and cancer to ignore.

I have instructed my kids not to use these types of products, unless they are organic and have nothing artificial, and even then I don't recommend it. Clogging pours with outside chemistry, natural or not, probably isn’t a good idea. Washing with natural soap daily, or more if necessary, will battle odor as effectively as deodorant, and has not shown, in any controlled study, to be harmful.

Marketing to children is effective. Get kids while they’re young and you have them for life. Corporations have been targeting kids for a long time. The Ronald McDonald clown isn’t aimed at exciting adults. But only recently have public school districts begun accepting ‘donations’ from corporate ‘sponsors,’ and actively promoting products directly to students.

Apple supplies computers to our school district starting at the 4th Grade level. My son’s 5th Grade class has a hub they affectionately call ‘The Cow,’ a big white steel case bolted to the wall with 30 laptops in it for student use. Apple isn’t being benevolent distributing computers to schools. They know if kids get use to working with their interface, they’re more likely to buy Apple down the line.

Proctor & Gamble knows this too. Except what they are selling is potentially toxic.

Million dollar incentive deals that put Coke machines in the hallways of our high schools, and junk food machines in the cafeterias [regardless of our national obesity epidemic] are now restricted in most states. Corporations go around this ban by 'sponsoring/donating/contributing' everything from product samples to full-blown 'educational' programs to our schools. Puberty education is now being funded by Proctor & Gamble. The glossary of their colorful little booklet covered everything from circumcision to ejaculation, all while promoting Old Spice, Red Zone. The booklet was even fragranced and smelled exactly like the sample deodorant stick the teacher distributed to the students.

Public education must serve our children before serving the corporate community. Sometimes, as in Apple’s case, a corporate collaboration serves everyone. Turning kids on to technology early will help them thrive down the line in our increasingly wired world. But funding for education (saving it or acquiring it) must not be the sole consideration of every corporate partnership. To serve our student body effectively, now and forward, it would behoove our school district administrators to thoroughly investigate what they’re getting before agreeing to promote it to our kids.

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