Movies “a la Cart”

I read an article about supermarkets now offering “video-equipped shopping carts.”  There’s a screen advertising store products for the parents and a second screen inside the child’s “car” playing videos like “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse” and “Handy Manny.”  My initial reaction was, “do children really need to be exposed to more tv?”  But I never had children so what do I know.  I decided to ask a few thirty-somethings who actually have children what they thought about this idea.

The first response was from John, who does the family grocery shopping and has taken his almost 3-year old son with him since he was born.  He tells me his son is very well behaved and he doesn’t experience the “nagging effect” some parents do.  John was excited about these carts because (1) his son is getting older and doesn’t always want to sit in the cart and letting him walk down the aisles isn’t such a good idea and (2) his little guy’s favorite shows are “MMC” and “Handy Manny.”

The women I asked had a different perspective.

Christine, mother of three, ages 11, 9 and 5, had lots to say.  “Kids in this country watch way too much tv, they can watch it at home and, in some houses, in every room including the kitchen and bathroom; they watch it in the car, and they even watch it in school.  I hate movie days in school, but that’s another topic.  In any case, most children in this country do not need even an extra half an hour.”

“It might keep kids happier and cut down on some spending, but having your child’s attention and talking about the different foods and teaching them why we’re not buying the gummies (they’re the worst enemies of small children’s teeth) is probably more important.”

“Every kid has temper tantrums and they learn from them.  I know so many people who refuse to take their kids to the grocery store, out to dinner, or to the mall.  But the fact of the matter is that’s how they learn to behave in society.”

Audra, the mother of a one-year old, said, “It’s good if you’re just exhausted and the child is too — and you need to get your business handled at the store without interruptions from the child.  But it shouldn’t be used as a tool every time. You’re avoiding the traps of advertising when it comes to kids reaching for items in the store (distracting them), but if there are ads on the video, it’s the same thing.  Also, the kids might get used to watching the video when they go to the store and it sounds like there are only going to be a few of these available at each location. So, what happens when the kid goes without it?  My husband and I think it’s just a matter of disciplining your child so they know what should and should not be done/tolerated at the store…  Seems to me that as a parent, I’d want to view the video first–but clearly the video can only be watched by the child so you hope the makers of it take that into consideration…and you’re not exposing your child to something worse than you normally would… If the videos were clean, with no ads, I might use them as a reward more so than a distraction…and use it sparingly.”

Mother of an almost 7- and 4-year old, Carolyn, said this:  “Here’s the thing…it’s just one more place where a TV is being placed.  Can’t you talk to your kids throughout the store?  Get them to pick out a new colored vegetable.  Ask them to count 4 pears and put them in a bag.  Find me the least expensive bottle of ketchup.  Why do we want our kids to zone out?  Yes, they need that sometimes, but, between the car’s tv and the grocery carts, we’re forgetting the relationship with our kids…  Of course, these are the only carts now available at my store.  The old truck/car carts are no longer there.  So, what other option do I have?  They don’t hold a lot and you can’t take them outside.  So, once you’re finished with your shopping, you have to bribe your kids to get out before the show is over … The checkers don’t like them either; they’re difficult to maneuver.  Overall, I hated the old ones but dislike these even more.”

Overall, it sounds like a bad idea.  I’ve always thought that tvs have been used as a babysitter for too many children and has removed any real potential for children to use their imaginations.  These carts sound like just another means to ignore and avoid interacting with your children.

After reading from those far more knowledgeable about these things, I’d have to say, I don’t get it, but if you do, God bless you.

Author Bio:

For over twenty years, Leona has tried to heed her husband’s advice, “you don’t have to say everything you think.” She’s failed miserably. Licensed to practice law in California and Washington, she works exclusively in the area of child abuse and neglect. She considers herself a news junkie and writes about people and events on her website, “I Don’t Get It,” which she describes as the “musings of an almost 60-year old conservative woman on political, social and cultural life in America.” It’s not her intention to offend anyone who “gets it.” She just doesn’t. Originally from Brooklyn, and later Los Angeles, she now lives with her husband, Michael, on a beautiful island in the Pacific Northwest, which she describes as a bastion of liberalism.
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  • Kevin Kelley

    I always enjoy reading posts from these amazing wonderful parents who use grocery shopping as an interactive learning experience. I know you exist and I don’t dispute you are great parents. Its strange that I never see you int he store. My question is why would a product like this offend you? Why should it NOT be available for those of us that work hard all day and need to get a lot done in the 30 minutes i have to shop for my 4 year old and his 3 other siblings at home?

    Did you know that 20,000 kids annually go to the emergency room with head injuries from falling out of shopping carts? Thats a stat from the American Association of Pediatric Doctors. I guarantee you that there are 20,000 parents that would have preffered a cartoon to an ER doctor on their fateful day. Did you know that the same pediatric organization had condemmed the design of standard shopping carts when used with small children.

    Please remember that these shopping carts are designed for children aged 2-6. When my 4 year old is in a wonderful mood, we walk and talk together in the grocery store. When his mood is less that ideal and I need to get my $120 spent right so that I can feed all of us for the next 4 days, I appreciate having these carts available.

    Hike your own hike. If you don’t like them, don’t use them. The idea that you don’t want them available for the rest of us is beyond arrogant.


  • Teddi

    I had no idea these carts were out there. I guess I live in too small of a town to know. Upon hearing of the situation, I do not favor the idea as it is one more screen which takes away time from interactive experiences. I agree that parents can choose not to use the video component. I don’t know exactly how it is set up on the cart, but I can see it being an issue if you choose not to turn it on for your child. It puts parents in a difficult situation which can result in tantrums and power struggles that could have been avoided in the first place. If the child is sitting in front of it and it is not on, that is very hard for a young child (which this is targeted at) to withstand the temptation. That would be like giving your preschooler some candy but saying he could not eat it. If I want to avoid the tantrum or meltdown, I would not have the candy in front of him. I would remove it out of sight. I think that is a lot to ask of a child to not get upset over the screen being off, and a parent having to regularly deal with that when they shop. Yes, it could probably be handled over time, but do parents need this kind of issue when shopping could simply be left to a positive, interactive experience?

  • Leona Salazar

    I just received this email from Kent who had this to say about video-equipped shopping carts:

    As the father of 12 (bio and adopted, ages 6-32), my kids have always participated in shopping without entertainment. Learning to shop is one of the important life lessons not taught anywhere. At the store, it is more than just advertising and variety, it is looking for the best value and most appropriate item to purchase with an explanation of what and why… and this goes down to toddlers. Next to a work ethic, how to budget and spend comes a close second.

    Few things frustrate me more than to see a young parent in line ahead of me with limited food stamps throwing money away on overpriced things that I won’t buy, with the bad feeling that they would likely not survive without the helping hand (taken from my pocket).

    Barney was forbidden in our house, and lots of the disney (small d) shows are now, too. Kids don’t need to have a constant litany of how to be a kid, they already think they know everything and these shows represent that parents are just ‘too old’ and any adult who imposes standards is one to be shunned or tricked. Kids need good adult role models to teach them adult roles of having to work for a living and spend money wisely. Don’t see much of that at all on TV or in movies made in the last 30 years (BTW, their favorite actors are Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart, Katherine Hepburn, Vivian Leigh… you get the idea, why do they still bother to make movies anymore?).

    We worked our garden last Sunday and got potatoes in the ground as well as 200 berry bushes and some apple trees. So far this year, the kids did it all themselves. Maybe when kids are given responsibilities early they won’t need constant entertainment. Maybe when parents decide to be role models, too.

    Bottom line… kids need to learn how to be adults, that is what childhood (an apprenticeship) is about.

  • Roger Ward

    I once read the number of hours of TV watched by the average kid (was it 3 1/2 hours per day?) …. but whatever the number, it’s too high. Any active activity is better thank a passive one. Parents should be more responsible in their parenting and should not so readily abdicate their responsibilities to an electronic babysitter.

  • Ron

    I don’t think it is a good idea or bad idea. Isn’t it up to each parent to decide if it is appropriate for their child? My guess is you don’t have to turn it on. I think it is fine that some parents choose not to avail themselves of it but I would not criticize the parents who use it. My assumption is that they know their children the best. In addition, not all stores have them. Go to another store and let the store you left no why.

    • Leona Salazar

      I don’t have children so I asked those who do. Seventy-five percent of my small sampling did not think this was a good idea. As you can see from their comments, they exercise control over what their children do and don’t do. My point is that these video-equipped shopping carts are just one more thing parents need to police and don’t need in their lives. They have enough to deal with and what their children are exposed to at school, on television, in movies, books and at their friends’ homes, etc. Different stores sell different items and different brands and when you’ve shopped at a store for ten years, like their prices and selection, I think it’s unreasonable to ask someone to go to another store.

      • Ron

        But isn’t that the whole idea of the free enterprise system, choice. I may have bought a certain item at a store for years but the store is not obligated to keep the item in stock for me forever. The way we vote in a free enterprise system is how and where we spend our money. If stores start losing customers as a result of the video, they would change the policy. My guess is that the stores have determined that this will result in more customers, not less, or at least that they will not lose customers.