When is it effective to market to kids? A recent article in the July 27th New York Times tells the tale of Toyota promoting its boxy Scion on Whyville.net, an online interactive community populated almost entirely by 8- to 15-year-olds.

The car company figures that the kids will press ma and pa to consider the Scion — and might grow up into Toyota purchasers.

Does this work? Sure it does. We are currently shopping for a new car — Alisa’s Civic wagon is nearly 17 years old and the rust is embarrassing our neighbors — and we have heard our kids loud and clear on the relative merits of the Mini Cooper and the Scion we’ve test driven.

But what about the ethics? Is it good for your family to have your kids marketed to? How much is too much? If you have kids who are older than 7, do you wish their lives could be less complicated, less full of corporately-suggested wants? Or do you think marketing aimed at kids might be educational for raising consumers in America?