Advertising to Children Notes

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* Children cannot comprehend advertising messages due to their young age. * Children don't understand persuasive intent until they are eight or nine years old and that it is unethical to advertise to them before then. According to Karpatkin and Holmes from the Consumers Union, "Young children, in particular, have difficulty in distinguishing between advertising and reality in ads, and ads can distort their view of the world." Additionally children are unable to evaluate advertising claims. (Beder, 1998)

* Older children pay less attention to advertisements and are more able to differentiate between the ads and TV programs but they are also easy prey for advertisers. Around puberty, in their early teens, children are forming their own identities and they are "highly vulnerable to pressure to conform to group standards and mores." At this age they feel insecure and want to feel that they belong to their peer group. Advertising manipulates them through their insecurities, seeking to define normality for them; influencing the way they "view and obtain appropriate models for the adult world;" and undermining "fundamental human values in the development of the identity of children." Advertisements actively encourage them to seek happiness and esteem through consumption. (Beder, 1998)

* Younger children often do not understand the persuasive intent of advertisements, and even older children probably have difficulty understanding the intent of newer marketing techniques that blur the line between commercial and program content. (Calvert, 2008)

* One key area in research on the effect of advertising on children has been analysis of age-based changes in children’s ability to understand commercial messages, particularly their intent. Before they reach the age of eight, children believe that the purpose of commercials is to help them in their purchasing decisions; they are unaware that commercials are designed to persuade them to buy specific products. The shifts that take place in children’s understanding of commercial intent are better explained using theories of cognitive development. (Calvert, 2008) * During the stage of preoperational thought, roughly from age two to age seven, young children are perceptually bound and focus on properties such as how a product looks. Young children also use animistic thinking, believing that imaginary events and characters can be real. For instance, during the Christmas season, television is flooded with commercials that foster an interest in the toys that Santa will bring in his sleigh pulled by flying reindeer. Young children “buy in” to these fantasies and the consumer culture they represent. Preoperational modes of thought put young children at a distinct disadvantage in understanding commercial intent and, thus, in being able to make informed decisions about requests and purchases of products. (Calvert, 2008) * With the advent of concrete operational thought, between age seven and age eleven, children begin to understand their world more realistically. They understand, for example, that perceptual manipulations do not change the underlying properties of objects. More important, they begin to go beyond the information given in a commercial and grasp that the intent of advertisers is to sell products. By the stage of formal operational thought, about age twelve and upward, adolescents can reason abstractly and understand the motives of advertisers even to the point of growing cynical about advertising. (Calvert, 2008)

* Increased use of the Internet to target children offers increasing opportunities for advertisers to convey their messages. * A new arena for advertising is the Internet. It is estimated that about four million children are using the Internet worldwide and this figure is bound to increase dramatically over the next few years. (Beder, 1998) * As the enormous increase in the number of available television channels has led to smaller audiences...
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