Shop Till You Drop… Consumerism in Teens

In this day and age, teenagers are judged by their materialistic possessions. The more you have, the cooler you are. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that this type of mentality encourages teens to spend more and more. They need to keep up with their classmates and that usually means getting the latest iPod or buying designer jeans.

Teenagers from middle class to upper class families usually have disposable income that more often than not comes from an allowance or a gift. Because this money didn’t come to them through hard work, it is less valuable therefore they are more likely to spend than save that money.

Teenagers are naturally impulsive buyers. Developmentally, teens are insecure and searching for things that matter, which they find in materialistic possessions. They’re in between a child and an adult and when it comes to stuff, they often revert back to the childlike “I want it now” impulse. For the most part, they believe that money should be spent today and not tomorrow. And when they have a disposable income, it just makes it that much easier to spend money.

In a recent study on teen consumerism by Allen Kanner, teens are spending two and a half times what they were in 1992. They have an annual overall budget of $15 billion and they influence over $600 billion of spending which is why companies target their products to teenagers the most. It is the most effective way to get a product into the market. After all, when one teenager buys a product, it is sure that others will soon follow.


This theory is called “brand bullying.” Its when a teenager feels pressured by his or her peers to buy a particular product because “everybody has one.” To them, its embarrassing to be the only one in the entire class who doesn’t own an iPod. This type of peer pressure is very common amongst teens. They’re pressured by their friends to buy the right brands from the right stores.

Brand bullying is especially evident in teenage girls who often judge each other by who has the cutest clothes and other materialistic possessions. The girl who buys the right clothes, authentic Uggs, and a Prada bag is going to be the one that other girls flock to. When you are a teenage girl, its very hard to wear clothes from the thrift store for fear of judgment by other girls. Companies target teenage girls, putting pressure on image –that if you don’t look a certain way, you’re not pretty. Teenage girls spend over $9 billion on skin and makeup products alone. But brand bullying frequently robs a teenager of self-determination, self-esteem, and self-awareness.

Moreover, this trend is beginning to seep into the younger generation. Eight years olds are now judged by who has a DSI, a PS3, and an X-Box 360. The more technology and videogames you have, the cooler you are.

There is no way to judge if consumerism in teens would ever decrease in the next few years but teenagers don’t like it when people tell them how to spend their money, just like everyone else. They keep buying and buying, without reflecting. If they don’t start to spend wisely when they get older, they are going to have a hard time coping with bills.