Monday, May 08, 2006

How the Military is Marketing to Kids.

I was strolling through a small town USA fair/festival. It was a pretty normal and standard family fun day, the air thick with funnel cakes and burnt sugar.

Crafts, face painting, games tempting with the latest in TV icons hanging from booth ceilings.

But, one thing I noticed that I had never seen before was a booth and a simulated ride from our very own United States Army.

Now, I was a little curious, so I tried to get a better look, and from what I could gather, it was a big painted up truck set up like a fun house, and inside was some sort of flight simulator show. It was all free, it required no money or ticket to climb up the stairs, take a look at some cool graphics and walk out the other end impressed.

But, there was one requirment and that was for all the teenagers who were interested in this high stimulation for a few minutes, and that was to fill out forms providing the military personel running the booth with all of their personal information.
Now, I'm a mom of a teen and nobody knows as much as I do how great it is to drop a group of high energy teens off at a town fair, where we all assume they will be safe, and let them run around and get those "ya-yas" out with as little worry to us as possible. But, while I watched in awe how many of these kids were just handing over their names, addresses, phone numbers and e-mails and who knows what other info to complete strangers in total trust to most likely be put on a government military contact list without their parents even being aware.

Now, with that, I want to make it clear that this is not an anti-military article, what my goal it to bring awareness to parents everywhere that this is happening and in the most innocent of places, where we least expect it, and if you are a parent who would object to the United States military having all of your child's personal information, it might be time to sit down and have a little chat with your trusting teen.

>>>>Heros Armed with Hardware *and* Software.<<<<

The military is extremly glamourous. Everything from military helicopters to tanks, to missile launchers were on display on the mall in Washington, DC from May 1st to the 7th in a Dept of Defense sponsored event called "Public Recognition Day".

The goal of the event was explained to me as a way to show the public what the military is doing, using for combat as well as put a friendly face on the American soldier.
I really sort of am embarassed to admit that I had a great time while I was there. I thought the whole event was kinda cool. I got to climb on tanks look at big powerful guns up close, and there were a lot of give aways, not to mention some VERY good looking soldiers. But, as some of the camo smoke screen was lifting and my hormones got somewhat in check, I noticed that it was pretty obvious that the event and the freebies were geared to marketing the military to kids.
Screen savers, video games, and posters were handed out showing kids very high tech graphics and slick images. The big friendly soldiers were available playmates and it was an arsonal playground. As an overgrown tomboy, I remember playing soldier, I had toy cap guns and threw many a water balloon grenade. But, in reality is it fair to our children to show live and up close that military hardware and wartime action is a game? As fun as it is to play on this large and powerful equiptment, in other parts of the world there are children who are facing military hardware in an atmosphere of terror, death and fear. Is it so wrong to also show our children and keep them informed of the gruesome visions of the piles of bodies and survivors of wartime with missing limbs and broken lives? I saw no mention or images of that side of war reality.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>The Dress Up Fantasy<<<<<<<<<<<<<< Dressing up is loads of fun. When you are a kid, your imagination can go boundless and there is that precious magical world of make believe and for hours you can be whatever you want.
I decided to strike up a conversation with one of the children playing. I asked him how he feels about the military and the war at present. He seemed very positive and supportive about all of it. I asked him if he would go to war when he grows up and he answered with a very enthusiastic "yes". I then asked him if he would be willing to die in a war, he again, nodded a yes. I then asked him if he mother was aware of this, and he just smiled and shrugged. As we are showing our children the impressive bravery our soldiers are facing, and giving them the honour they deserve, we also have a responsibility to let them know that war is not a game, a fantasy and a playground. As parents we have the power to keep abreast what Washington is marketing to the trusting minds of our offspring. It does not matter how your family feels about the military, or if you agree or disagree with this war, these are our children, they are being raised by us, not the Federal Govnerment and it has become apparent to me that we must all keep a close eye on the fact that the military is keeping a closer eye out on them.

Well, I hope I have brought some awareness to an age old situation. Yes, I know the military has always appealed to kids, but, there are now some new ways that you might or might not know about. Keep your eyes open and keep yourself informed.

Until next time!

Peace OUT