Department of Psychology
National University of Ireland, Maynooth
“Child advertising: Cradle to Grave consumerism.”
Submitted by: Charlotte. E. Knee
Supervisor: Andy Cochrane
Word count: 2200
Of all the “Big ideas” that have changed how we live in the world only one has achieved total supremacy. Its overwhelming and compulsive allure rob its followers of reason and good sense (Van Boven, 2005). It has created unthinkable unsustainability and inequalities among countries, which now pose a stronger threat to human survival than any other phenomena previous(Assadourian et. al, 2010). It is now more powerful than any religion, reaching into every corner of the western world; this monstrosity of an idea is “consumerism”. It holds the mentalitythat we should all actively be trying to consume more everyday and every year, with the more we consume leading to better lives and greater happiness. However as we witness the rise in social problems such as child obesity, crime and psychological disorders in the western world we must consider if there is a link, and as numerous studies have now shown the relationship is substantial (Wilkinson and Pickett, 2009).
A new “Big Idea” involving a cultural shift must take place converting people to sustainability and reduction ofconsumption before it is too late for us, and more importantly the environment (Skinner, 1976). Reports now show we are dangerously close to the 2 degree Celsius increase in temperature that will push us over the edge of climate re-stabilization(Meinshausenet al, 2009). Global efforts to reduce carbon emissions and promote sustainability such as the Kyoto protocol are in place however the central problem of consumerism is not being addressed. The next generation will grow up in a world where all they know is how to buy. We are steadily loosing the basic skills that have assured human survival to this day. All our children are learning is how to get the best bargains at Tesco and have life aspirations centered on money and possessions. If consumerism is to be reduced we must promote other substitutesamong the youth and at the very least reduce the current impact of consumerism on their development.
Children as targets
From a consumerist point of view children are the perfect customers, they have no previous appraisal of other products, they are impulsive and will be loyal for life if hooked young. They are the most susceptible to advertising and promotion and most interested in new products. Children now account directly for an estimated $36 billion in sales annually in the USA, with their indirect purchasing power accompanied by the so called “nag-factor” (Zelizer, 2002) reaching over $290 billion of economic spending (McNeal, 1992). This is not a coincidence, but a direct result of intense advertising and co existing problems of a consumer society. For example with over 70% of mothers now working more and more, consumer tasks are falling to the children.It is now estimated that by age 10, the average child makes over five trips a week to a shop or shopping center (McNeal 1992). And with over $1 billion being spent every year on child advertising and an additional $10 billion on promotion in the USA alone, these children have more purchasing power than ever.
Over the last decade there has been a dramatic shift in the age of children which marketers target resulting in the creation of the “Tweens”. From the age of 9 to 14 years children are now considered to be midway between childhood and adolescence and unlike other generations acquisition and accumulation of goods has become a preoccupying behavior (Goldberg, 2003). At this age children are still developing in all aspects cognitively, physically, emotionally, socially most importantly they are gaining values and worldviews. With the...
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