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Buy, Buy Baby: How Consumer Culture Manipulates Parents and Harms Young Minds Hardcover – May 8, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

According to reporter Thomas, modern marketers believe that "the moment a baby can see clearly, she becomes a consumer." Indeed, as investigative journalist Thomas discovered, some marketers start earlier, with an array of fetal "education" gimmicks designed to broadcast music and vocabulary to the mother's womb. Thomas interviewed a wide range of child development experts, product developers, marketing consultants and educators to write this well-researched exposé of the brave new world of American babies. Parents no longer believe that unstructured, baby-directed play and exploration is a valid use of baby's time. Parents buy videos and toys marketed as tools so that baby's every free moment can be a learning opportunity, even if there's no evidence that babies learn anything from these products. The phenomenon of KGOY—kids getting older younger—has passed from tweens down to toddlers and lap babies. Younger and younger children are watching more and more television and videos, she argues, and identifying with more "licensed character" products. Some of the problem lies with today's Gen-X parents, says Thomas, who's one herself. Having grown up with latchkeys and divorced parents, with only television for comfort, they want to give their own children everything—and marketers know how to play to their insecurities. Thomas ends with Pooh's plea for "Doing Nothing"—an idea many parents may be relieved to embrace. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

About the Author

SUSAN GREGORY THOMAS is an investigative journalist and broadcaster. Formerly a senior editor at US News & World Report and co-host of public TV’s Digital Duo, she has written for several publications, including Time, the Washington Post, and Glamour. She lives in Brooklyn with her two daughters, who are seven and five years old.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (May 8, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618463518
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618463510
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,144,838 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Susan Gregory Thomas is the author of two books: "In Spite of Everything" (Random House: July 2011); and "Buy, Buy Baby: How Consumer Culture Manipulates Parents and Harms Young Minds" (Houghton Mifflin: May 2007). She has written for The Wall Street Journal, U.S. News & World Report, the Washington Post,,, and others. She has three children and lives in Brooklyn.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Steven Goldberg on May 11, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This will, in all likelihood, be the most important book published this year.

Susan Gregory Thomas uncovers and exposes a threat to every child, and the adult that child is to become, that most of us are only vaguely aware of: the unbelievably extensive corporate attempt--clearly successful--to turn our children into unthinking consumers motivated only by status.

Thomas is tenacious in her demonstration of the lengths to which companies go in order to turn our sons and daughters into automatons substituting an addictive desire for the next "must-have" item for the development of imagination and learning.

Most of us were aware that advertising aimed at children was unwholesome, but Thomas shows the myriad ways in which such advertising is merely the tip of the iceberg.

Here it is possible present only a small sample of the lines of attack used not merely by mega-corporations, but also by "parent-friendly" companies. Their armamentarium includes manipulation by findings of academic psychologists, neurological investigation, licensing ploys that limit choice and raise price, collusion by education organizations and revered operations like Sesame Street and Baby Einstein...the list goes on and on. This one book makes the reader a virtual expert on the subject and an able opponent against those who would brainwash your children. (Thomas shies away from the term, but it is impossible not to see the practices she exposes in such terms.)

The importance of this book, and its potential to improve our children's lives, is huge. It is not going too far to say that Susan Gregory Thomas is the Rachel Carlson challenging the practices she describes. Buy, Buy Baby is compulsively readable and spellbindingly interesting, but these are the least of its virtues.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By D. D. Gries on May 13, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Thomas's "Buy Buy Baby" is two books for the price of one.

The first book shows how toy manufacturers, educational publishers, and TV studios are making toddlers brand-conscious at very early ages. Almost immediately, brand-consciousness translates into desire for branded products that people a toddler's world at the supermarket, in the public library and the preschool. and at home. What parent is strong enough to deny his or her toddler a Disney product or a PlaySchool educational toy?

The second book is a thoughtful look at the impact of this commercial onslaught on very young minds. Thomas describes current research showing that Baby Einstein and other "educate-my-toddler" videos scramble rather than clarify the way toddlers process information. Toddlers respond to love and attention from real people, not from toys with flashing lights or CD's whose visual images may fascinate but at the same time may slow development.

Thomas admits to being a busy, stressed parent herself who must stretch to find enough time to play with her two daughters. So she makes play count, letting her little girls develop their imaginations, invent games, and just have fun. Technically-advanced toys and beguiling videos appear to have only a small place in the Thomas home.

Buy Buy Baby is an eye-opener. Parents and grandparents should read its ageless message: commercial products that impinge on the toddler world are more of a burden than a benefit during the first three years of life. In no way do they substitute for intimate parent-child relationships.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful By I. Albano on May 15, 2007
Format: Hardcover
"Buy, Buy Baby" reads like a good detective novel. The author uncovers the facts and presents them in a clear and thoughtful manner. She never judges how parents raise their children. Every parent should read this book.

The book really hit home for me when Thomas recalled a marketing exec's reply to a question about whether or not it might be disconcerting for a child to hear its disembodied mother's voice in a toy. "I guess we have to say that we put the mother's voice in because the research said that babies' and toddlers' social interaction with mother enhances learning."

Well thank god for the research! I laughed so hard I blew cold coffee out my nose. Idiots! How much did they pay for that bit of information? Have these marketers ever spent time with babies? I was ready to brush the whole thing off as silly marketing speak but as I read the rest of the book I became more and more disturbed. That corporations market their products to babies and toddlers is reprehensible but until laws are past to protect children between the ages of 0 and 3, marketers will continue to exploit them. Research lets them do that job well.

Parents, me included, are not prepared to deal with the psycho-emotional manipulation that this 20 billion dollar a year industry produces. With other products, if I succumb to marketing, it's me that looks silly in the too tight pair of jeans. But this is different. When parents succumb to toy marketing it's their babies sitting in front of the TV watching videos. Before reading this book, I thought that babies watching TV was no big deal. Before reading Fast Food Nation, I thought eating a couple Big Macs was no big deal. I've changed my mind.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By M. Thompson on September 10, 2007
Format: Hardcover
If I had a lot of money, I would give this book to all my friends who have young children or are about to have children. If you have ever suspected that something is deeply wrong with our consumer/TV culture - especially where our children are concerned, this helps you put a definite finger on it. We and our children are being manipulated and harmed by money grubbing companies who hide behind "learning" as a way to rake in the cash. They both incite and take advantage of parents' concerns that they are simply not doing enough for their children and that they can somehow boost their children's IQs/talents by putting them in front of gadgets and videos. Some of the questions and research findings presented in the book have recently been supported by a U of W study showing that videos such as Baby Einstein are not helpful for infants and may even delay language development. The marketing profiles of the different kinds of moms out there, depending on their age and income/education level, are spooky. Marketers and the companies they work for know all about you and what makes you tick and spend. Some people call this free-enterprise, but some of the marketing and R&D you will read about in this book are completely unethical and some are really asking for a class action lawsuit. Squash consumer culture. Turn that TV off and talk to your baby, go take a walk, go to the park,...
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