Goodbye Kitty!

At some point over this past winter, my girls launched an Anti-Hello Kitty® Campaign. My almost six year-old came home from school one day and stated “I’m sick of Hello Kitty®!”. This declaration spurred our very first discussion on media literacy and consumerism. We talked about all the places they see this pesky cat and how many kids – and even some grown-ups – cover themselves in the clothes. My kids wanted to know Why. Why was Hello Kitty® everywhere and on everything?

The word ‘marketing’ entered their vocabulary that day. I explained to my preschooler and my kindergartner, that people owned the image of that kitty, and these people made money every time someone bought something with Hello Kitty® on it. I told them about how these people put Hello Kitty® on cereal boxes, lunch boxes, clothes, toothpaste, backpacks, candy wrappers, umbrellas, toys, etc. in order to make them more appealing to children.

My eldest, who is very insightful, understood right away; “So kids will want their parents to buy it for them because it has Hello Kitty® on it, ” she said. She saw right away that this was a pretty tricky thing to do to children. If you’re a parent, you know children have a keen sense of justice, so they really disliked being tricked.

This new awareness is what started their campaign to stop Hello Kitty®. They made signs that said “Stop buying Hello Kitty®” and brainstormed the best ways to get the message out – dropping the notes from an airplane was their favorite idea. In the end, the airplane didn’t pan out, but they did start a game where they counted how many times in a day they saw an item with Hello Kitty® on it. This went on for weeks. Whenever we went out to a store, they would see Hello Kitty® and sigh, “Not again.” The campaign to end this pesky cat’s life didn’t end up extending beyond our house, but their interest in the subject did last quite a long time. Just recently we were out shopping and one of them asked for a toy with Hello Kitty® on it. When I pointed out the image to her she just shrugged and said “That’s okay. I’m actually not sick of it anymore.”

Oh well. At least we started a conversation, one that I will keep up for years to come. Our culture’s obsession with consumerism makes it necessary to have these types of discussions with our children from a very young age. After all, the media begins sending their messages straight to children practically from infancy. I’m not going to let some marketer decide for my kids what they should want or tell them what they need. They have to learn how to make those decisions for themselves, and it’s my job to help them.

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