Marketing Fear to Parents and Adults

As concerned adults, we also need to recognize when our anxieties about media violence are used to sell us on blanket censorship, ideology, and a variety of products.

Media violence is a popular social issue and it is one that can easily be co-opted, especially when it is articulated within the context of youth and children. As adults and parents who seek to promote healthy media consumption and media literacy, we have to be careful not to fall into the trap of emotional rhetoric designed to frighten rather than enlighten us.

The frustration with this sort of fear mongering was articulated by parents who were interviewed as part of MediaSmarts’ Young Canadians in a Wired World focus groups in 2011.  Although many of them gave their children smart phones in order to “keep them safe,” they worried that unknown others were now able to use GPS to track their children’s physical location.  And, to a certain extent, they blamed the phone companies.  One Toronto parent’s comment resonated with much of the discussion: “I really resent the fear that all these phone companies have instilled in people [through fear-based advertising campaigns].” [1]

Emotionally charged polemics about the violent movie of the month or the newest offensive video game serve to propel issues like media violence into the spotlight, but they rarely, if ever give concerned parents, children, and citizens the tools necessary to engage with the violent media they encounter.



[1] MediaSmarts (2012). Young Canadians in a Wired World Phase III: Talking to Youth and Parents About Life Online.