Go Play!

It can be argued that the terms “go play” and “interactive” have very different meanings for children today than they did twenty five years ago. Today, kids would most likely associate those terms with some sort of interactive technology like a Wii or Playstation or iPod. Though, when I was a child, these terms literally meant to go outside and play and interact with friends. I distinctly remember a childhood friend’s father telling us to “go play” if we attempted to spend an afternoon inside during the summer watching TV instead of being active children. Looking back, those two words have stuck with me and will be used when my wife and I have children as well.

It’s ironic that “Go Play” is now part of a marketing campaign from Nestle that rewards children for being active. Has society really gotten to a point where we have to reward children for going outside and interacting, playing with others, and running to the point of exhaustion? Apparently. When I was young, a successful summer was defined by knees that has been skinned so many times because of rugged play that they were scabbed over well into the Fall. Loved it.

As marketers, I think we have more channels available to us to deliver marketing messages to advertise the latest toys, candy, and cereal to children, but the ethics incorporated in doing so should still be held to the highest standards. Keeping in mind the audience, children, is critical. Keeping messages literal and comprehensible is important.

At the same time, I think there needs to be a wake up call to parents regarding their children. It’s not the marketing messages themselves that are impacting how children develop and act, but rather, a fundamental shift in society and what it means to be an active, well supervised child to begin with. As a child, there were fewer platforms through which marketers targeted me, but the messages were still there. I love looking back at the old commercials that were run on Saturday morning cartoons, for example. This is another great one for He-Man and the Masters of the Universe toys. Notice how the ad features children actually playing with each other, outside nonetheless (what a concept), with the toy being marketed:

My point here is that, if children are truly being children and are outside, being active, and engaging in imaginative play, they’ll naturally have less exposure to marketing messages overall but will still occasionally learn about cool new toys, games, and so on when they do watch TV or go online. I remember as a child that sugary cereal, happy meals, candy, and even watching TV inside during the day when we could be outside playing were occasional treats that we looked forward to rather than gimme’s from time-pressed parents. As a society, with childhood obesity continuing to skyrocket, it’s time to stop blaming marketers for all of the societal ills involving children.

Parents should have the final say, and actively monitor, what their children are and are not exposed to, marketing and otherwise, especially at younger ages. If individuals deem specific games, messages, toys and foods inappropriate for their children, I applaud the active role they take in filtering such things. And, to parents nationwide, I say let’s tell America’s future to “go play”…outside that is!

I welcome, and encourage, your comments.

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One Response to “Go Play!”

  1. sally seward Says:

    Amen!! Guess we were right to kick you boys out of the house to play 🙂

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