CANADIAN CONSUMER KIDS CONFERENCE
While teachers, parents and other advocates will be meeting in Ottawa from November 24 to 27 at the "Canada's Children, Canada's Future" conference to re-affirm their individual and collective commitment to a safe, healthy and hopeful environment for Canada's children and youth, another group of 'movers and shakers' who see kids as nothing more than consumers will be meeting in Toronto to talk about the best gimmicks and marketing ploys to sell their products to children.
Called the Canadian Consumer Kids Conference, the event, according to the advertising brochure, is designed to give companies "the tools you need to market to this powerful consumer group".
Teachers and parents object to the holding of such a conference and to the whole philosophy behind it.
"We are outraged" says Maureen Morris, President of the Canadian Teachers' Federation, "that one of the sessions will show companies how to develop innovative marketing programs which appeal to both students and educators. Still another is titled Using Your Relationship With Schools to reach Children and Their Prescriptors."
According to Ms Morris, "children are among the most vulnerable members of our society and it is shameful that the Consumer Kids Conference fosters the exploitation of the innocence of these children by teaching companies how to better manipulate their young buying impulses by using schools to help achieve that purpose."
The position of the Canadian Home and School Federation is also very clear. CHSF President, Kathleen McFayden, states: "I believe the conference only encourages the promotion of marketing in schools and to young people. I see no code of ethics or guidelines to ensure that the best interests of the child are even being considered. The Canadian Home and School Federation has serious concerns about open access of concentrated marketing directed at any students."
A major objective within the conference program is to "Learn how to build long-term relationships with schools and teachers in order to position your product with students".
The leaders of the two national organizations agree that: "Children are already exposed to a barrage of media marketing strategies targeted to them. The teacher's job of educating the next generation of Canadians about what is and what isn't important in life is complex enough without having to deal with marketers trying to exploit children within the school environment."
CTF and CHSF are urging companies that have registered for the conference to reconsider and withdraw. The organizations intend to notify their members of those companies who do participate in what they call "a crass attempt to take advantage of children". And, they say it will be a factor in assessing which companies are worthy of receiving their business, as well as that of their members and families.