At the beginning of the new year, Coca-Cola released a health focused ad campaign. Awesome is a soft drink company that isn’t sugar coating the reality of rising obesity rates! The campaign tackles the age-old fact that over consuming sugar (or any food group) will lead to weight gain and other health problems. The ad also notes that Coca-Cola’s various drinks are now sold in ‘’diet’’ or low-calorie choices.
What is so special about this ad? Coca-Cola is creating awareness, which is what a leading brand should do. BUT, what really caught my eye was the fact that there was not a single polar bear used in the campaign. Various polar bears and their progeny have inhabited Coke’s advertising since 1922, and in 1993, Coca-Cola launched the “Always Coca-Cola” TV campaign with animated bears. We don’t know if Coca-Cola has set the bears free, forever, but the fact that a health-focused, bear-free campaign was launched, shows that Coca-Cola has been doing their homework on their audience.
All right, I admit that the effect of Horror movies and violence in video games on children is no stop-in-your-tracks exclusive and we have all heard the talks and seen the studies one way or another. You see for me, that is the problem. If it is so common place a debate, how have the producers and game developers just decided to ignore it and take things to a new extreme?
For all intents and purposes, Disney Animation Studio’s Wreck-It Ralph is a video game movie. Akin to Toy Story or Who Framed Roger Rabbit, it’s not an adaptation based on any one game in particular, but instead an amalgamation of characters and cues that have wormed their way into our cultural knowledge of video games. Though the film lovingly references everything from famous sound cues to the apparently arbitrary mechanics that so often appear in games (candy-cane tree branches with double stripes will disappear when touched), its character-driven story challenges an idea at the heart of many video game narratives: That there is a “good guy” to root for and a “bad guy” to defeat.
Wreck-It Ralph is a bad guy – though, as his bad-anon companion Zangief would tell him, not a bad guy. As a video game villain, he spends his days doing the thankless work of providing an obstacle for gamers to overcome, and ultimately takes to leaving his game and travelling the arcade it lives in, searching for something more. From there on out, the heart of the story is Ralph proving to other people – but more importantly, to himself – that he can be something more than a “bad guy” who ruins everything he touches.
With the NHL season quickly slipping away, fears about the loss of games have subsided into apathy about the whole situation.
I remember the lockout of 2005 and I know I was more upset than I am now, and I wonder if kids are missing the game as much as I did almost a decade ago.
Now I just shake my head.
It is kind of bamboozling that after losing the entire 2004-05 campaign, the NHL didn’t solve some major issues.
The league is counting on a loyal and rabid fan base to stick with the game, and diehard hockey fans will.
But some fans won’t.
I’m sorry to say that the book you are holding in your hands is extremely unpleasant. It tells an unhappy tale about three very unlucky children. Even though they are charming and clever, the Baudelaire siblings lead lives filled with misery and woe…”Lemony Snicket, The Bad Beginning
So begins the tale of the Baudelaire orphans, the heroes of the series of books entitled, “A Series of Unfortunate Events”. The series spans 13 books, all written by author Daniel Handler under the name, Lemony Snicket. Lemony Snicket is a character himself within the book, and the series is his biography of the Baudelaire children, Violet, Klaus and Sunny.
The series ended in 2006 with the release of The End, but children and adults alike can still learn a thing or two from Handler’s tales of woe. In his New York Times review, Henry Alford states,
Where, in the end — and in “The End” — does the “Unfortunate Events” series leave us? It leaves us reminded of what an interesting and offbeat educator Handler is. In between all the exotic ethnic food references and the gallows humor and the teaching of words like “denouement” and “vaporetto,” the books seem at times like a covert mission to turn their readers into slightly dark-hued sophisticates.
Curiously, readers may not even realize they are learning from Handler’s strange world of orphans. As Snicket, he makes a point of using obscure language. But instead of leaving his readers wondering or having them run off for dictionaries, Snicket defines those words. Handler does not speak to his children readers as too young, or too inexperienced to understand. Instead he opens children’s minds, and treats them as human beings. It is a very different and challenging experience for young readers. Read more >>
Exposing Kids to Gallery Art and Cool Culture
The Art Gallery of Ontario’s current exhibition of Frida and Diego provides valuable exposure to Mexican art for adults and children alike. I found adults could view the exhibit and recognize the political, historical and emotional themes behind the works. Children can also really appreciate the art for its colour, content and cultural significance. It is important to allow kids to experience the art of other cultures, just as it’s important to expose them to different languages or foods, in order for them to grow into well-rounded adults.
Diego Rivera’s work shows a great variety of styles; he experiments with realism, abstraction and surrealism. This is great to expose children to, as it allows them to see that an artist can create in many different forms, all of which are completely valid. It also promotes creativity as it encourages the child to paint as they want instead of mimicking other styles or doing precisely as their instructors tell them to. Rivera also worked with mural painting that can be seen in a multimedia presentation in the exhibit. This shows children an entirely different method for creating art and provides an entirely different scale for expressing their creativity. The more varied the medium you expose kids to as they are growing, the more willing they are to experiment with their own creativity.
The vivid colours of Frida Kahlo’s work focuses on portraiture, mostly of herself, and mostly involving flowers, nature and animals. Self-portraits are one of the most common themes kids draw, along with their family, friends and pets. They represent the building blocks of drawing, painting and sculpture; if you can draw a face, you can draw almost anything. Self-portraits are an important way for children to gauge their own growth, really study their own features, explore their creative process and see that – just as they are different from other kids – so is their art.
As an advertising student and student of advertising, my job is to peer deeply into human behaviour and human attitudes. These days, I can’t stop thinking about how darned smart Marshall McLuhan was when he opined, ”the medium is the message” way back in ….1964? That pithy little meme – still echoing through the halls of academia – certainly has relevance to my media life and Mr. McLuhan shared this insight in a pre-computer, pre-mobile world. So if the medium is the message what does the medium say about ME?
Mr. McLuhan (he’s mister to me) uttered his insight in the heady days of television (think: Mad Men). TV was definitely the backdrop to my life, but my medium of choice was, and continues to be, digital. Read more >>
Even though the sixth book in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, Cabin fever,was released last November, according to Publisher’s Weekly it’s still one of the best-selling books for the current year. The books’ popularity is somewhat surprising. It doesn’t have the off the wall humour of say Dr. Seuss, nor does it dabble in the wizardry made popular by Harry Potter. Instead, it has Greg.
Between my job here as Director of the kidsmediacentre and the 11 years I’ve spent in schools teaching media literacy to kids, I’ve seen and heard a lot of stories – indeed too many stories – about bullying. One story that comes to mind is a digital literacy workshop I gave at an elementary school in Maple, Ontario in 2007. It was the new, heady, free-for-all days of Facebook, Club Penguin and Habbo Hotel and the principal was juggling his share of technology related “incidents”. The provincial Safe Schools Act had just been revised to acknowledge this new digital culture and the rise of cyber-bullying. The language of the act was revised to say if a child’s physical or “digital” behaviour affects the moral tone of the school community, then school administration would have to consider disciplinary action.
I was describing some of these new digital destinations and the principal was illuminating parents on the underbelly – and student-related behaviour – on some of these sites. His request was simple: could parents please spend more time supervising their kid’s digital pursuits so he could spend more of his time educating – versus disciplining – children. A parent in the audience stood up and corrected the principal. “If my kid gets into trouble when he’s at home on the computer then it’s my job to discipline him, not the schools,” he argued. “You do your job, I’ll do mine.” In what can only be described as poetic justice, this father’s son stood up and said “No dad. That’s wrong. The principal told us today that a school community includes home and school and what we do at home can affect our lives at school and what we do at school affects our lives at home.”
Some of my fondest childhood memories are of squishing paint between my fingers onto a blank piece of paper, or using multi-colored crayons to create strange, new magical creatures and places.
These were integral to the development of my imagination and creativity and the early beginnings of my life-long love of art. It strikes me children today don’t get as much exposure to “hands-on” fine arts, the way I did growing up. They seem to have a lot more “hands-on” experience with technology; painting, drawing, designing and creating on computers, tablets or game consoles. Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s great that kids are learning technology at a young age and can learn to create using this medium.
But I believe allowing a child to regularly explore traditional mediums – holding a paint bush, pinching a crayon, manipulating a pencil – versus tap, swipe, tap, is vital to a child’s physical, social and emotional development. Research confirms traditional activities like drawing, painting & molding promote a broad cross-section of skill development including hand-eye coordination gross and fine motor skills, visual perception and creative thinking.2 Art can help a child in other areas of study as well and has been proven to raise academic scores.1 It allows a child to develop more mentally, physically, socially, verbally and cognitively.2
But beyond research and science – while digital drawing encourages creativity, it can’t replace the sheer tactile joy of discovering new colors while mixing and slopping them onto a piece of paper with an oversized brush or messily drawing your very first green cow that lives in a far-off world. Having access to fine art tools at home and at school, and having someone to show me how to use these tools, allowed my imagination and creativity to run wild. This passion for art has stayed with me throughout my life – and even if it wasn’t the main focus of my studies – it was there, influencing me somehow. Not all children are exposed to art at school or at home, so as an adult art lover, I do what I can to bring it into their lives.
Even if a child doesn’t grow up to be the next Michelangelo or Picasso, their life will be more full and rich because they have art in it. It may be messier than the paint app on the iPad, but the benefits of using traditional mediums like paint, markers, crayons or pastels are well worth the extra minutes of clean-up. You’ll be amazed at what lives in the imagination of a child when it’s allowed to escape onto paper.
Media offers a world of entertainment and learning possibilities for children and youth. The kidsmediacentre explores kids' media futures and is committed to supporting cross-platform content producers in Canada to ensure the kids' media industry is vibrant, indigenous and committed to the healthy growth of children.