My toddler and I sat down to review the latest National Geographic Kids magazine–a fun-looking issue with a big sea turtle floating across the cover. I turned to the first page and was just asking him what he thought we’d learn about sea turtles when all of the sudden something else caught his attention. “SPONGE BOB!!” my little guy exclaimed, pointing to the cartoon character on the inside cover.
I was confused. SpongeBob?? First of all, we’ve never watched the TV cartoon show in our house, and secondly, what’s he doing in a National Geographic magazine? Then I realized that the smiling Mr. SquarePants was actually pushing a family resort in the Cayman Islands, whose ad was prominently featured on the magazine’s inside cover.
National Geographic Kids (along with Sports Illustrated Kids magazine) is one of the few leading children’s publications that accept outside advertising. I’m on the fence as to what I think about it. In the magazine’s defense, most of the ads are completely appropriate to its audience and feature products most parents wouldn’t have a problem with–a series of books by an author I read as a child, a healthier kid’s option at a leading national fast-food restaurant, and of course, the SpongeBob vacation package.
My children are still young, and television is extremely limited in our house. I know as they get older, they’ll be subject to more advertising messages. But I’d like to hope there are a few places that could remain pure. Do we have to field questions about whether we can take a family vacation to the Caribbean when we’re just trying to look over a neat science magazine with our kids? The photography and content in National Geographic Kids is great, and I know it takes lots of money–advertising money–to put together such a terrific publication. I just wish my little guy’s world could remain protected from the advertising onslaught for a little longer.
What do you think about advertising content in children’s magazines?