Youth Engagement with Commercialism

More stuff than ever is for sale today. Young people buy things. However, youth engagement with commercialism is not a simple relationship between abusive marketers and simplistic young people. Instead, there are children and youth today who are challenging the addiction to buying things, including images, ideas and culture. Around the world children and youth are creating new ways to relate to the corporate and commercial culture that has been built around them. They are pushing away professional athletes, Internet websites and cellphone apps, television stations, schoolbook covers and other targeted marketing designed to sell them things. Instead, they are supporting local economies and simply not buying as much as they used to. This is changing the world right now.

“All over the place, from the popular culture to the propaganda system, there is constant pressure to make people feel that they are helpless, that the only role they can have is to ratify decisions and to consume.” ― Noam Chomsky

Ways Youth Engagement with Consumerism Happens

Youth Teaching Consumer Education — Teaching children and youth to make informed decisions about what they buy, how they purchase it, what it truly costs, and what the outcomes are of their purchases can be a powerful role for youth as teachers. Educating their peers, young people, parents and communities about commercialism is one way youth are changing the world right now.

Youth as Advocates — Building community, creating consensus and fostering social change are some of the ways youth as advocates are changing the world. By organizing their peers, leading movements against marketing in schools, and shifting public perception about consumerism children and youth are helping reduce the footprint of their communities on the Earth, build sustainable economies and foster a new world.

Local Economies — In communities around the world, youth as makers and producers are growing local economies, designing solutions and solving the crisis consumerism has thrust upon the planet. Through farming, production, design and conscientious consumption, children and youth are disrupting and directly challenging unsustainable, non-holistic approaches to production and consumption.

Needs for Youth Engagement with Consumerism

Education — Learning about commercialism is a key to children and youth becoming informed young consumers who are capable of critical thinking focused on changing the world. Commercial is different from consumerism, too; many things that used to be free or paid for with public money are now paid services, products or places. Young people need to learn the effects of commercialism, neoliberalism and other economic changes in their lives. Educating young people about commercialism can change the world in a variety of ways.

Inspiration — Given its ever-present reality, challenging commercialism can feel overwhelming and revolutionary. It is. However, sharing stories, personal examples and other inspirational tools with children and youth can change the world.

Youth/Adult Partnerships — Taking action together to change the world, youth/adult partnerships can be tools for understanding, criticizing and challenging commercialism. Adults can empower young people to challenge the negative effects of commercialism while children and youth empower adults to be more effective and sustainable in their efforts, too.

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Other tools are out there, too – share your thoughts in the comments below! For more information about how The Freechild Project can support youth engagement in the Arts in your community or organization, contact us.

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