For anyone who has kids, grandkids, or simply is around kids, you know what Nickelodeon is. With 80% household penetration, it tops all of the other children’s cable networks. The Nickelodeon web-site is the number one children’s online destination. It is one of the nation’s most profitable networks.
A senior executive explained Nickelodeon’s stance: “The whole premise of our company was founded on serving kids, and what we’ve found is that when you do good things for kids, it happens to be good for business.”
So my question is this: Does Nickelodeon really care about kids, or do they really care about business?
Here are some revealing insights from Juliet Schor’s book, Born To Buy.
The secret of Nickelodeon’s success is its core philosophy: “kids rule.” In everything that they do, Nickelodeon tries to take the child’s perspective. The network has positioned itself as kids’ best friend, on their side in an often hostile environment. Donna Sabino, director for research and development at Nickelodeon’s Magazine Group, explained the thinking to me: “It’s hard to be a kid in an adult world. The adult world doesn’t respect kids. Everywhere else adults rule; at Nick kids rule.” The Nickelodeon worldview is that childhood has gotten tough. “Kids are experiencing increased pressure for achievement and activity. They don’t have enough time for homework, they’re overscheduled.” Nickelodeon gives them what they need: “funny, happy, empowering.” There are thirteen criteria a program must have to pass the muster at the network, including good quality, a kid-centered message, humor, and edgy visual design. In theory, these are good criteria. But in practice, when kid-centric and edgy come together, what often results is attitude–an antiauthoritarian us-versus-them sensibility that pervades the brand.
In my opinion, the last thing that children need with their parents is an “us-versus-them” attitude.
Jesus loves children for who they are, not as a means to an end. All of us adults should do the same.