Exploiting Childhood: How Fast Food, Material Obsession and Porn Culture are Creating New Forms of Child Abuse, edited by Jim Wild, Jessica Kingsley Publishing; Philadelphia, PA, 2013, 206 pages, $23.95.
This captivating book is a must read for parents, teachers, ministers, counselors, social workers, and pediatricians. Jim Wild, the editor, has skillfully found a way to link the new culture of children’s addiction back to the family, or lack of family guidance, and more interesting, the community. The book details the many ways that corporate America has preyed upon the innocence and gullibility of children as well as parents. These corporations, assembling multi-billion dollar marketing teams, have successfully found a way to increase the public’s thirst for platonic, superficial materialism.
Prior to reading this book, I never truly comprehended the massive, macro abuse that is happening to children, teens, and young adults. Fast food marketing campaigns aimed primarily at young children and teens are one of the largest perpetrators of this physical abuse, as more young children are consuming fast foods and are becoming overweight, obese, and are being diagnosed with early onset diabetes at staggering rates. Nipping at the heels of the fast food marketing are the clothing and electronic marketing abusers, specifically targeting young children and teens to buy the skimpiest clothing and the latest electronics, and when they don’t, they are marketed as being “uncool,” “unhip,” and losers. Only “winners” buy these electronics and only “winners” wear these styles.
This book was enlightening, frightening, and infuriating, as adults are allowing this abuse to take place, often condoning it to assuage the child. This placation to children, with videogames, and iPods, and PlayStations, is keeping children indoors, unable to remember to play, create, recreate, run, scream, climb trees, run on the grass. And the more we keep our children inside, the more obese, apathetic, lethargic, and sickly they are becoming.
The book is an easy-to-read collection of well written, short, concise, and very clear chapters, focusing on material and sexual exploitation. There are 15 chapters in the book, detailing the amounts and types of abuse our nation’s children are suffering, without even knowing it. The financial gain associated with the exploitation of children is sickening and will only continue to decimate, slaughter, and destroy our children as long as social workers, teachers, pediatricians, psychologists, psychiatrists, mothers, fathers, churches, and communities passively sit by and wait for someone else to take the lead and fight this battle.
This book outraged me, as I hope it does every single other reader. I hope, however, the outrage turns into action, as this book draws a straight line from corporate America greed to physical, emotional, and psychological abuse.
Reviewed by Marian Swindell, PhD, MSW, Associate Professor of Social Work, Mississippi State University.