Childhood Under Siege: How Big Business Targets Childrenby Joel Bakan
Corporations have found a new resource to be mined for profit: our children. In this shocking and indelible behind-the-scenes journey, Joel Bakan, acclaimed author and award-winning maker of the renowned film and international bestselling book The Corporation, uncovers the astonishing degree to which companies exploit the special vulnerabilities of children, manipulate parents’ fears, and operate with callous disregard for children’s health and well-being.
The number of children taking dangerous psychotropic drugs has skyrocketed as pharmaceutical companies employ insidious, often illegal tactics to inflate diagnoses of disorders and convince parents their children require medication. A highly sophisticated marketing industry deploys increasingly subtle and powerful tactics to play on children’s intense emotions and desires and to lure them into obsessive consumerism. Computer game designers craft techniques to titillate children with sex and violence, while social media developers infiltrate and shape children’s social and emotional worlds to compel them to spend more and more monetizable time online. America’s schools are being transformed into profit centers while children are subjected to increasingly regimented teaching that thwarts curiosity and creativity, numbing the joy of learning. And children’s chronic health problems, from asthma to cancer, autism, and birth defects, steadily escalate as thousands of new industrial chemicals are dumped into their environments.
Nelson Mandela once sagely remarked that “there can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way it treats its children.” The problem today, as Joel Bakan reveals, is that business interests have made protecting children extremely difficult. Corporations pump billions into rendering parents and governments powerless to shield children from an unrelenting commercial assault, with the result that after a century of progress, during which protective laws and regulations were widely promulgated, children are once again exposed to substantial harms at the hands of economic actors.
Childhood Under Siege leaves no room for doubt that this assault on childhood is a major crisis of our time. A powerful manifesto for urgent change, it empowers us to shield our own children while offering concrete and realistic proposals for legal reforms that would protect all children from these predatory practices.
"Childhood Under Siege is a compelling call to arms in the covert war for our children's minds, health, and future. Joel Bakan empowers us all to stop lamenting the destruction of childhood and do something to rescue it."
“The assault on childhood in our corporate-dominated and profit-driven society, painfully dissected in this penetrating study, is a tragedy not only for the immediate victims but for hopes for a better future. It can be resisted, as Joel Bakan discusses. And it is urgent not to delay.”
“Joel Bakan documents and depicts a modern disaster-in-the-making as ominous as our society's assault on the natural environment: the social and economic destruction of the conditions for healthy childhood. An eloquent and prophetic work we need most urgently to heed.”
“To be a child today, even in affluent countries like ours, is no longer a time of innocence, idyll and discovery, as Bakan reveals in Childhood Under Siege. Most children today grow up on a planet in which billions of tons of toxic chemicals have been poured into the air, water and soil; in a big city where the opportunity to encounter nature has been replaced by concrete, fast cars, video games and shopping malls; in a world in which childhood represents a marketing challenge and opportunity. Read this important book and then start working for change.”
"Joel Bakan's new book is a compelling, informed alarm about the insidious and invisible ways children are being manipulated into thoughtless consumers. Childhood Under Seige is an essential read for anyone who works for or cares about children because we simply can't advocate for and teach them effectively if we don't know what we are up against. As a mother and a teacher, it was sometimes overwhelming to read this book, but for my own work and parenting I forced myself to keep going. At times it was deeply frighteningand I do media literacy training as part of my work. It's very simple: If you want to be relevant in a child's life, you need to read this book."
“Our new century of unlimited private profits has put an end to the era of publicly protected childhood. Separated by corporate design from their parents, kids have become capitalism's newest and most lucrative (and most vulnerable) consumers. In his Childhood Under Siege, Joel Bakan offers an angry but careful analysis of how the market flourishes today by selling our children everything from dangerous drugs, toxic plastics and unhealthy snack foods to violent and addictive video games and for-profit standardized tests. The villains here are not playground stalkers but supposedly "child-friendly" companies like Nickelodeon, Facebook, Pfizer and Edison Schools, along with a trillion dollar children's marketing machine and a "government is the problem" ideology that hasmade public regulation of the interests of children all but impossible. If they read Bakan carefully, once they get over their rage, both parents and policy makers may be ready to lift the corporate siege that is threatening not just our children but childhood itself."
"Bakan offers passionate argument and copious research in this compelling call for parents to stand up for their children."
"[Bakan] calls for government regulation of big business, citing examples sure to make parents take notice...A provocative argument."
Bakan (Law/Univ. of British Columbia;The Corporation, 2005) argues that corporations "resemble human psychopaths in their essential natures," and he calls for government regulation of big business, citing examples sure to make parents take notice.
Children are bombarded with images of sex and violence, and the advent of new media makes it increasingly difficult for parents to control what children view. According to Bakan, two popular Internet games that contain murder and misogyny—"Whack Your Soulmate" and "Boneless Girl"—attract children with addictive qualities and are brought to us by a flagship site for Nickelodeon. The author even goes as far as blaming the fast-food industry for childhood obesity; though parents make the ultimate dietary decisions, he writes, they are heavily influenced by the "nagging" of children. Bakan discusses several crimes of the Western corporate world, including the proliferation of harmful chemicals (phthalates and lead) in Dora the Explorer activity totes and Wal-Mart's child-labor--law violations. Most shocking is the author's example of hundreds of thousands of U.S. migrant children working in fields for hours with few breaks, exploited by big farms. The author notes that governments "are alone in being able, through the enactment of laws and regulations, to change, for the better, the conditions in which parents make choices for their children." Bakan provides many disturbing statistics and examples, but little in the way of solutions.
A provocative argument heavy on emotion but light on economic ramifications.
- Free Press
- Publication date:
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- SIMON & SCHUSTER
- NOOK Book
- File size:
- 4 MB
Meet the Author
Joel Bakan is professor of law at the University of British Columbia. A Rhodes Scholar and former law clerk to Chief Justice Brian Dickson of the Supreme Court of Canada, he holds law degrees from Oxford, Harvard, and Dalhousie Universities. An internationally renowned legal authority, Bakan has written widely on law and its social and economic impact. He is the cocreator and writer of a documentary film and television miniseries called The Corporation, which is based on the book.
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