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Buy, Buy Baby: How Consumer Culture Manipulates Parents and Harms Young Minds

3.72  ·  Rating details ·  259 Ratings  ·  68 Reviews
Our kids are becoming consumers at an alarmingly young age. Many children are already asking for products by brand name at age two. Toy and media corporations have long manipulated the insecurities of parents to move their products, but Buy, Buy Baby unveils the chilling fact that these companies are now using and often funding the latest research in child development to e ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published August 12th 2009 by Mariner Books (first published May 8th 2007)
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May 07, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: parents, especially of babies & toddlers
You must read this book. Right now.

This book looks at how "spokescharacters" are directly marketed to babies and toddlers, at how "educational" toys and videos are marketed to parents, and how Generation X's quirks influence their parenting (and susceptibility to marketers). This book hit me hard. I was amazed to see my own parenting style so neatly described in her discussions of Gen X parents. This book is packed with studies and insider information that add some muscle to her discussion, rat
Mar 29, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A reasonably in-depth presentation of recent research into marketing to children. One of the main points the author circles back to is the effects of television on developing brains--that TV, even in the background, disrupts children's ability to focus and entertain themselves, and the recent hypotheses that the rise of autism and ADD is at least in part due to the hypnotic TV preventing them from making the neural connections they need. (There's also the hypothesis that babies aren't so much en ...more
May 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What part of this book, an exploration of the effects of consumer culture on babies and toddlers, appalled me most?

It could be how "licensed character" books are taking over the book stores, to the exclusion of authors and illustrators creating original books for children.

It could be the description of a marketing team, intent on needing to market a particular children's video as something beneficial for babies. At first in screening the video for a room full of children, they were disappointe
Jan 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics, parenting
Imagine spending time at Disney World with your child. Your child asks if he can have the Mickey Hat. You tell the child, no. He asks again begging please. This scenario does not prove impressive as it happens a lot. However, did you know execs from Disney are standing somewhere near by with a clipboard, taking notes? Scary, isn't it? Those people are watching to see what your breaking point is, and when you give in and fork over the money for the Mickey Hat. That way they can market directly to ...more
Dec 01, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A book to make you paranoid. If you are already paranoid, I suppose you don't need this book. It actually is very interesting, although the actual writing style reads a little too much like a psychology text book. Anyway, it makes me feel very defensive of my childhood-- I liked Care Bears and My Little Pony because they were fun, not because I was conned into it...right? And now as a mom, it makes me feel very defensive of my children and the marketers' attempts to get into my head so I will bu ...more
Aug 28, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's always comforting to find someone who will back you up when you have an instinct. In my roll as a new mom I feel a lot of pressure from my peers and from 'experts'to raise a super-baby. If she isn't doing calculus and writing poetry by kindergarden have I failed her? I have heard many other mothers extoll the virtues of Baby Einstein-type toys and videos, and it makes me uncomfortable. Here's a book saying that not only is there no research to support this 'learning' cramming, but the resea ...more
Sep 09, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A couple more books that we are discussing for the award that I liked...Buy, Buy, Baby: How Consumer Culture Manipulates Parents and Harms Young Minds by Susan Gregory Thomas. One of the subjects that I am interested in and have been reading about for a long time is brain development. I have been reading about the impact that media and advertising has on the cognitive development of young children for years, starting with the brilliant book Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman. (I have als ...more
Sep 07, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I accidentally found this book while searching the library catalog for "elmo's world" (title of one of the chapters) because I'm a pathetic GenX parent who lets my not-quite-2-year-old watch Sesame Street videos because I feel abandoned by my Boomer parents who made me a latchkey kid at age 11 and I am completely hoodwinked by clever marketers who appeal to my nostalgia for the only good parts of childhood. Which was apparently watching Sesame Street.
This book mostly depressed me, because none o
i was stoked to read this book because i have an incomprhensible obsession with reading about people spending money they don't really have on baby stuff & making crazy helicopter parent decisions. but the book was so tedious that i could barely finish it. it was a big disappointment.

the main problem with the book is that thomas grounds her thesis & research in her bizarre obsession with contrasting gen X parenting styles against baby boomer parenting styles. this was a major theme in her
May 22, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first 3 to 4 years of life are important because it is when the child's brain is basically shaped for life. A 15-year old has more in common, cognitively speaking, with a 55-year old than a 4-year old. The baby's mind is a black box, it's unknowable other than what psychologists can tease out. We didn't evolve with TV or ads so its effects on a baby's mind are a "vast uncontrolled experiment" at this point. Parents are participating in vast numbers made easier by marketing that either explic ...more
Aug 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I found "Buy, Buy Baby" to be as enjoyable a read as possible for a book that really hits home about the business of marketing to young children. For some reason I'm extremely sensitive to that - I suppose I have some romantic and impossibly untrue conception of childhood as an innocent and magical time that shouldn't be touched by big business. That's obviously nostalgic and idealistic in the extreme, but I think it's where I'm coming from.

That being said, I happily let my toddler watch Sesame
Feb 26, 2010 rated it liked it
This slender volume tackles a couple of the most insidious examples of marketing to children: "educational" products that lack any educational research supporting them, cartoon branding of products and the involvement of very young children in marketing. Thomas interviews industry insiders to understand and explain how decisions about children's TV, children's books, children's characters and even preschool curricula are influenced by money making decisions. Some of her research is truly eye-ope ...more
Stephanie Glaser ransom
This book was chosen by my book club, so I have to admit that I wouldn't have picked this one on my own. I did read it and I have to say I am amazed that people give it good reviews. I am a 1st grade teacher. I am glad Leap Frog uses a curriculum. I have no problem with "educational" or "learning" toys because I have common sense and realize that toys won't teach my son, they're toys. I am aware that companies market toward me and toward children and I do not find it shocking that they are const ...more
May 24, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Librarians, moms, academics, psych majors, marketing and business majors
Shelves: non-fiction
This book was less incendiary than I would have guessed, based solely on the title. I was pleased to see that the author didn't simply take the anti-media stance preferred by many in the education field, but rather spoke to a number of experts in the field and formed some interesting opinions and relates the information in a relatively unbiased matter.

This also made me really think about how I would treat a child if I ever found myself with one. . . what I would want to instill in them and how I
Nov 28, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Great nonfiction writing. Hang on to your Baby Einstein videos and Barbie dolls, folks! It's gonna be a rocky ride.

The author looks at studies that have been done testing the idea that videos made for babies and toddlers can actually be educational. (Answer: Yes. They teach them to recognize characters, and when producers put those characters on products, the child will ask mom to buy said product.)

She also takes a look at the pervasive commercialism that surrounds American children today, as
Jan 18, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A great summary of the insidious marketing that goes on in the lives of kids from birth onward. Author Susan Gregory Thomas reveals the tactics of the toy industry, designed to hook children into materialism and greed at the earliest age possible. So-called "educational" products, which aren't proven to actually teach kids anything, are little more than covers for marketers to entrance children, even as young as infants, with brand-consciousness. This book contains undeniable facts about the att ...more
Jan 18, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: All parents, but especially moms
This was such a fascinating book. I love any non-fictioin book that makes me say "No way!" outloud every chapter or so. I really learned a lot and as a new parent, it opened my eyes to the influence of marketing on children, as well as my responsibility as a parent to teach my child to be a conscientious consumer. I also really, really appreciated the fact that the author didn't try to make my mind up for me. I took the information provided and formed my own conclusions about what that would mea ...more
Aug 02, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
wow, this book opened my eyes. Okay, opened them wider. I thought I knew a lot about the insidious workings of marketers in terms of children. I knew jack about some of the stuff I read in here.

And I'm in this book. I am a Gen-X, R3 mom. I'm on the restrictive side; I spend lots of time with my kid; I think a lot about my purchasing decisions. It's a little scary that they know this about me - the very things that I thought kept me insulated from marketing practices. Eek!

This not only reinforced
Aug 11, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: any parent of young children
Shelves: book-club-books
This is a very scary book! I was shocked at how well marketers know our generation of mothers and how they play on our deepest values and insecurities to sell us things that our babies "need." The research about media geared to children is eye-opening and terrifying. It is presented in a fair and unbiased format. There really weren't any villains in the industry, just people who were clueless. Yet, we trust these clueless people to educate our children. I really felt I was above these influences ...more
Jan 28, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good, solidly researched book on how companies market to very young children and how producers of educational programs make unproven claims on the educational nature of their products. Especially interesting is the claim that infants and toddlers do not understand the connection between a spokescharacter and a product, and that children learn much better when information is presented in real life and not on a television screen, even when the information presentation is exactly the same both time ...more
Oct 09, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
When I started this book, it really drew me in and I found it very interesting. But after the beginning few chapters, I found the rest of it rather boring because she added in so many irrelevant details that got off track from what the book is really about. The author makes some very good points about the potentially harmful effects of TV and consumer culture on children. However, I think she goes too far and makes it seem like just about every TV or consumer-related thing for kids is bad and ha ...more
Dec 17, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sociology, 2011
After reading this, it's totally believable that showing kids TV too early could contribute to ADD or behavioral problems later on. I've always thought marketing in general was pretty creepy, but this upped the ante quite a bit (especially the example describing the influence of the Disney Princesses brand on the group of 3-year-olds.) I'm sure a lot of people would think it's fear mongering, but I'd totally recommend this to all future (and current) parents. There's no reason to take chances wi ...more
The title and subtitle of this book are helpful enough in conveying its main arguments. The marketing world, for better and for worse, is far more clever than it is generally given credit for, and it does one well to be aware of what's going on there--I recommend this book for its careful research on that front. The book takes on babies as its chief concern on this front, and it stirs up some good questions about them. I've always been a cardboard-box-scissors-and-a-sharpie-are-best kind of pers ...more
Jul 05, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: parents and/or anyone who cares for children
If anything, this book reminded me that no one else but me, my husband, any maybe a few other relatives, is looking out for my child. Virtually all companies see my family, and particularly my daughter, as a person as nothing but a consumer. Personally, I am not surprised at all, though hate to see that business is so careless (even if it is mostly because of ignorance). The thing that is the most difficult is that I am not sure what I can do to keep my daughter from becoming a consumer before s ...more
May 23, 2008 added it
Recommends it for: Parents, parents-to-be, those working with young children
Shelves: 2008
Interesting, and cleared up a few points I wasn't very clear on - in particular, the effects of television/videos on very young children, and the validity of "educational" claims for various products such as Baby Einstein videos.

On the downside, the book was sloppily edited and had some sentences that had clearly been reworked without ensuring that they still made grammatical sense, plus a heavy degree of repetition of examples, concepts, and meanings similar to that of books that started life a
Dec 05, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As the mother of a toddler, I've been amazed at how quickly my child gloms on to "spokescharacters" he's seen only once. Well, he's not the only one: this book explains that Dora, Thomas, etc, are part of a massive marketing machine, designed to turn TV-watching toddlers into lifelong customers. Chilling example #1 is the free curricula TV channels provide to cash-strapped daycares and preschools so they can hook kids on their shows. Now when I'm watching "Elmo's World" I expect to feel not just ...more
May 01, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone with kids
Gives the information upfront, doesn't have too much of an agenda and lets you make your own conclusions. Very easy to read, it does jump around a lot and I had a hard time figuring out really what each chapter was focused on because of all the jumping around, but that's what made it readable.

I liked reading how marketers view consumers- especially Generation X, although I'm not quite Gen X. I think some of the sweeping generalizations are inaccurate, but that's why they're sweeping gernalizatio
Aug 19, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2009
Very good. A definite read if you are planning on having children or if you are already a parent to an infant or a toddler. The biggest takeaway message that I got from this book is that TV is inappropriate for the under two set based on the way they process information. The book covers the concept of concrete thinking in infancy and toddlerhood which is central to that takeaway message.

I did feel that the book could have used some tweaking in terms of editing. It could have felt like a tighter
Sep 17, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
OK, After renewing this book from the library 2 times, I have still not made it more than 1/3 of the way through. This is in no way reflective of how good this book is. In fact, it is an extremely interesting look at the the history of the marketing of "educational" toys & TV, the research done on GenX moms (yes, thats you & me) and the exploitation of that research by marketers. Problem is, I suck at reading nonfiction. The fiction books just sit there looking at me saying, "pick me up! ...more
Nov 28, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent book -- a great read not only for parents or people who plan to become parents, but useful for any consumer who's looking to find out a little bit about how marketing works. This book focuses on how marketers target parents' insecurities and nostalgia to sell products, as well as how small children are treated as consumers by toy companies and marketing firms. Contains a lot of surprising information; very illuminating.
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Susan Gregory Thomas is a journalist and the author of Buy, Buy Baby: How Consumer Culture Manipulates Parents and Harms Young Minds. Formerly a senior editor at U.S. News & World Report and co-host of public television’s Digital Duo, she has also written for Time, The Washington Post, and Glamour, among others. She lives in Brooklyn with her family.
More about Susan Gregory Thomas...