Today’s kids are the most marketed-to generation in history. They spend an estimated $200 billion a year of their own money so they are very profitable targets for exploitation and manipulation. Combine this with the frequently manifested modern parental desire to be their children’s friend, and you can see why marketers compete like never before for the attention of these sophomoric spenders.

So fierce is the competition for their cash that modern marketing techniques have become, in many cases, insidiously evil. Selling to tweens isn’t about finding out what they want—it’s about figuring out how to manipulate their minds.

Sex sells, and is a staple of today’s marketing campaigns. However, many of the highly sexualized campaigns today are targeted at children. They sell empty promises of sexual power, every kind of sexual perversion, and a crude incivility in entertainment programming, as well as specific products.

MTV and others have become experts at feeding the raging hormones, edginess, and roller-coaster emotions of our youth, producing highly titillating material that ignites their adrenaline and leaves them begging for more. Instead of helping our sons and daughters positively approach and channel their sexuality and their developing understanding of decency and civility, the entertainment world pours gasoline on youthful passions and confusion.

Plainly put, our kids are being used.

To understand why—and how—marketers target them, consider these facts, courtesy of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood:

■ Children under 14 spend about $40 billion annually. Compare this to the $6.1 billion those between the ages of 4–12 spent in 1989. Teens spend about $159 billion.

■ Children under 12 influence $500 billion in purchases per year.

■ This generation of children is the most brand-conscious ever. Teens between 13 and 17 have 145 conversations about brands per week, about twice as many as adults.

■ Companies spend about $17 billion annually marketing to children, a staggering increase from the $100 million spent in 1983.

■ Children ages 2–11 see more than 25,000 advertisements a year on TV alone, a figure that does not include product placement (showing a character drinking a Coke, for ex-ample). They are also targeted with advertising on the Internet, cell phones, mp3 players, video games, school buses, and in school.

■ Almost every major media program for children has a line of licensed merchandise including food, toys, clothing, and accessories. Brand-licensed toys accounted for $22.3 billion in 2006.

■ In their effort to establish cradle-to-grave brand loyalty and promote nagging, marketers even target babies through licensed toys and accessories featuring media characters.

■ Viral marketing techniques take advantage of children’s friendships by encouraging them to promote products to their peers.

As the National Institute on Media and the Family notes, when it comes to marketing to kids, the old equation has been turned on its head. Years ago, marketers would reach out to parents to get the kids. Today, they can go directly to the kids. Of course, that makes their job easier because children are certainly less discriminating and skeptical than adults, and therefore easier to persuade. As the cliché goes, “follow the money.” That’s exactly what marketers have done—and the easiest path is the one through your child’s pocket.

What makes this all the more disturbing is the content of their messages. At best, marketers breed a highly materialistic view of life, leading kids to believe that happiness can be found in a line of stylish new clothes, the latest “hot” music, or an exciting new toy. But as the luster fades with the most recent acquisition, the desire for another new thrill takes its place. The temptation to be up-to-date with friends and classmates induces many kids (and many willing parents) to live beyond their means, trapping themselves in a spiritually empty cycle of “buy now, pay later” as they frantically try to keep up with the latest and greatest.

Worse is the trashy content in many ads and TV shows. To appear to be cutting edge, companies apparently see no choice but to lower standards, and to feed us crass images of sexuality and rebellion. As an executive from the WB network told PBS, “Teens are consumed with sex. It’s all around them. If you’re going to reach them, you have to talk about it.”…

Today’s media has made an industry out of studying your kids. It’s time to know what they know about your sons and daughters, and then teach your kids how not to become a pawn in the name of greed.

Learn about the forces arrayed against you and arm your kids with the truth. Read The Marketing of Evil: How Radicals, Elitists, and Pseudo-Experts Sell Us Corruption Disguised As Freedom by David Kupelian, the managing editor of Today’s youth are under tremendous pressure to conform to the value system of those who are selling them short of the best they can become—but we can’t protect them if we don’t know how they are doing it.

And we’ve got to do more than just know it. We’ve got to teach our children about marketing techniques and instill sound values in their hearts along with the will to stand up against those who would use them. If we take the time and energy to equip our sons and daughters, then when they are confronted with damaging, clever marketing messages, they will recognize them and know how to reject them.