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12/10/2009

A Sponsored Puppet Show?

12_9 puppet 002 I watched the puppet take a bow over the top of the dining table while giving the obligatory applause.  Then I heard my daughter say from underneath, "brought to you by the National Science Foundation."  What?!

I should not feign surprise.  I know exactly where she heard that phrase: PBS television.  At the end of every SUPER WHY!, Caillou, and FETCH! with Ruff Ruffman (my girl's favorite), a business or nonprofit is credited with their sponsorship.

Like many parents who have read the warnings about screen time, development, and consumerist attitudes, my husband and I wanted to avoid television for our daughter.  Yet, it has crept into our life.  First were the shows we put on in the late afternoons when she was giving up napping but still needed some down time.  Then a few Sesame Street podcasts were added to the bedtime routine.  Now she checks out DVDs from the library and makes requests for specific shows.

What my daughter does watch are usually educational series.  By being choosy about what is on the TV, we hoped to avoid the "I wants" and brand loyalty.  Apparently even these restrictions were not enough to overcome the amazing power of advertising.

My daughter has no idea what business the PBS sponsors do.  I know because I've asked her and she has no coherent response.  I wonder how her feelings about the sponsors will develop later in life when she does find out about Chuck E. Cheese and Earth's Best and any of the other names she can rattle off in pretend play.

I find myself talking about sponsorship.  "Businesses pay money so the television station can make shows and then you hear their names at the end.  They might be a good company or they might just want kids to like them.  What do you think?", I ask to engage her.  I can see in my daughter's blank stare that this discussion is meaningless to a child who has yet to understand the value of a single dollar.

I hope that between my "What do you think?" conversations and the natural curiousity that will someday cause her to find out more about business sponsors I will end up raising an educated consumer.  In the meantime, I'll stifle my giggle at the end of puppet shows.

This is an original Ohio Moms Blog post.

Rachel Tayse blogs about gardening, cooking and simple living at Hounds in the Kitchen.

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