From the Weeklies
"Angel-faced tyrants"--an increasing number of Czech children are reportedly becoming 'out of control', what's the future trend in mobile phones, and the positive aspects of hosting the IMF and World Bank session here in Prague. Those are some of the attention-grabbing stories from this week's magazines.
There's a television ad being broadcast in the Czech Republic that has parents and psychologists up in arms. As a car stops at a crossing to give an angel-faced little girl right of way, the girl sees a chocolate bar in the hands of a young woman in the passenger seat. Acting on instinct she slams her doll on the car's bonnet with such force that the airbags inflate and, while the surprised couple are struggling to free themselves in the car, the little darling swipes the chocolate bar. "If you must, you must," says the voiceover, while Elvis Presley croons "Little angel, devil in disguise".
In an article entitled "Angel-faced Tyrants", Tyden magazine reports that an increasing number of Czech children are becoming out of control, bullying parents and entire households with endless demands that are promptly met in order to prevent a screaming fit. Before 1989 Czech children were generally given a strict upbringing based on the old saying that "children should be seen and not heard" and the authoritative schools system too kept them very much in line, stifling any attempt at individualism.
After 1989 many parents embraced the American concept of upbringing, giving their children considerable freedom and large amounts of pocket money, as if to make up for all they themselves didn't have. The trouble, according to child-psychologist Jaroslav Sturma, is that they have gone from one extreme to the other and let their children's demands rule the household. The advertisement business is banking on this child power. An increasing number of children are deciding what consumer goods the family will buy, from the family car to soft drinks--and advertisers know it. As a result more and more ads feature kids--telling them what they MUST have, what is COOL, and what will make them the envy of their friends.
All ads exaggerate and grown-ups realize this, but children don't, says psychologist Jana Balazova. She says that parents have complained about the ad in which a small girl lies to her mother while sitting next to an overflowing bathtub, drinking a certain brand of soft drink. "When you have this drink nothing else matters," is the message kids are getting.
Jirina Prekopova, a child psychologist and author of a book called "The Little Tyrant", says there is an increasing number of Czech parents who need help. Demand for her book is on the increase. "I have seen parents so desperate they almost wish they'd never had a child," she told Tyden. The old way of bringing up children was unhealthy and having let go of the reigns entirely, many feel they are no longer able to reach their children, either by kindness or discipline.
Apart from what psychologists can offer as guidance, what is the Council for Advertisements doing to curb the adverse effects of this kind of advertising? Jiri Mikes, the Council's president, admits that the Council will have to take a harder line and advertisers will have to tone down some of their ads, not just for the benefit of Czech society but also in view of the country's plans to join the EU. The "little devil" ad is one that he himself finds immoral. It is due to be debated at an upcoming session and may well be banned.
The head of the McCann-Erickson ad agency which created it is a Canadian and would probably not have got away with it in Canada, Mikes says. Here things are still more lenient. An add should be put up for approval before it goes out, not on the grounds of numerous complaints submitted by the public, after millions of people have been watching it for weeks, he points out. That, however, is something the Czech Republic still has to tackle.
Given the unbelievable leaps and bounds which the evolution of the mobile phone has taken these past few years, Lidove Noviny magazine looks at what's in store for us, reporting on Nokia's and Philips' future trends. The latest advance is apparently "wearable electronics". In other words miniaturized, lightweight and flexible electronics firmly embedded in your clothes. Placed in a watertight casing, your mobile will be protected against water, dust and impact.
Philips is cooperating with the Levi Straus jeanswear manufacturer for a whole line of wearable electronics that will include a miniature MP3 player, allowing one to listen to music and take calls simultaneously. The Finish Reivi company, which focuses on wearable electronics in sportswear, has come up with the idea of a snowboarding suit with an implanted mobile and GPS satellite navigator. In the event of an accident the mobile can send out repeated SOS messages giving the owner's precise location.
If you are already on your feet and heading for the shops, stop, you'll have to be patient for a while longer. Most of these gadgets are only in the process of being tested and are being paraded on fashion shows but it will be a while yet before enthusiasts can obtain them. As for most people, Nokia estimates it will take some 20 years for wearable electronics to become an everyday part of our lives. Not everyone may be holding their breath. As for me, personally I draw the line at having a miniaturized mobile implanted in my ear, which no doubt its makers will suggest in the not too distant future.
And finally, Profit magazine has broken with the current trend in worst-case-scenario reports on the upcoming session of the IMF and World Bank, focusing instead on how advantageous this meeting will be for the Czech Republic. The 20,000 delegates and guests are the cream of the world of finance--finance ministers, governors of national banks, heads of important financial institutions and investors from around the world. With respect to the publicity it will generate, Finance Minister Pavel Mertlik has likened the IMF and World Bank session to the Olympic Games. The most important men of finance will be able to see for themselves the progress the former communist state has made, and help eradicate the misconception that the Czech Republic is 'one of those post-communist countries somewhere in the Balkans'.
Not only will the 20,000 delegates, who are to be wined and dined and treated to the best Czech culture, architecture and nature has to offer, share their experiences with colleagues and friends, there will be over two thousand journalists from around the world giving the country free publicity, Profit says. The session itself will bring in a certain amount of profit. While the state is investing 740 million crowns into the project, Deloitte and Touche estimates that profits may well be between 1 and 3 billion crowns, with long-term profits climbing to between 7 and 17 billion. A large sum of this indirect profit should come from foreign investment, re-vitalized congress tourism and tourism in general. Travel agencies, spas and hoteliers are hoping that the session will bring more affluent tourists in its wake.
Profit takes a look at what the IMF and World Bank summit did for Madrid and the news is highly encouraging. It deepened Spain's ties with both institutions. This is highly desirable since the World Bank finances major projects in the developing world and up till now Poland and Hungary have won more tenders for such projects than the Czech Republic. Thanks to the session, Madrid acquired the reputation of a modern commercial centre with modern congress facilities. It has since become a highly popular congress destination. All this is now within Prague's reach. And with the IMF and World Bank session just days away, the hectic preparations have reached fever pitch.