By Nik Shultz
I became aware of the idea of trends in early middle school. Although I wasn’t aware of any name for the phenomenon.
Children ask a lot of questions of the adults around them. As my last blog talked about, they also learn a lot by observing the world around them. They also discuss things among themselves. Children are little philosophers, and to them their conversations are of great importance.
Once when I was a kid my cousin and I got into a huge fight over who would get to use a row of bushes as their house for a game of pretend. There were plenty of other good spots in our backyard that we regularly used as settings in our pretend worlds, such as the play structure that served as a Lost Boy style tree house or a pirate ship, and the sandbox which served as a garden, beach, or occasional monster stomach. I felt that the gap between the bushes and the fence would be the perfect den for my werewolf character, my cousin thought that it would be a good cave for a witch to sell potions out of. The argument got so intense that my mother had to come out of the house and moderate our debate. All of which is a long winded example to explain that kids take things that adults find trivial, very seriously.
And children think they are very clever and smart in their study and discussion. At least I know I did. I thought I was making a quite brilliant observation when remarking to friends in fifth grade, “First it was Webkinz, and then it was Silly Bandz, and now everybody is obsessed with these glittery hand sanitizers that clip onto your bag!” Little did I know that this sort of collective group obsession over one thing or another was pretty normal, especially in young people. It wasn’t something that anyone was explaining to kids my age though, so it was just something we learned from observing the world, and accepted as the natural order of things.
(Sidenote: Do you remember when hand sanitizer bottles with different scents and colors and glitter were suddenly dangling off of every backpack strap? I suppose that’s one way to get kids to keep their hands clean!)
But how normal is it for these fads to exist? Fast fashion, the idea of buying trendy clothing styles to throw out as soon after being worn once, is a relatively recent invention. Has the speed of which we go through what’s popular changed with the internet? Take a look at meme culture. Something happens, a joke, or several jokes, get made about it, and then they get passed around the social media for a week or two, and then the meme is stale and there’s something new to talk about.
Like anything else on the market, toys follow trends, trying to keep up with the wants of an ever changing consumer base. Plus it helps the company keep making money if they keep putting out new products. Whether it’s the consumers’ fickle wants or the companies’ needs to keep making new products that create this “trending” culture is perhaps a more complicated question.
So is the question of the affect this has on us as people, and on our children. L.O.L. Surprise Dolls have been criticized by horrified parents during several different controversies now, but they are still one of the most popular toys on the market, one of the biggest toy trends of the moment. Is the latest fad dictating our children’s interests more than the potentially more positive influences of the adults around them?