The Negative Impact of Advertising to Children
As citizens in the modern world, we are used to being bombarded with over 3,000 advertisements over the course of our day (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2006). Advertisements are so common that we often do not realize we are viewing them. Originally, an advertisement was a way to reach the world. In the early days of television, the programming had to be entertaining for many demographics, because there were only a few channels that targeted a mass audience. During this time, a focus was not placed on audience segmentation, because there were not enough media channels to segment an audience. Today, audiences are segmented through all forms of media. Through this increased segmentation, advertisers are able to more successfully reach individual demographics than ever before. Children have become an especially lucrative market, but before this practice continues, many changes and regulation must occur.
In 2006, there were 73.7 million children under the age of 18 in the United States. The child population has increased over 50% since 1950 (U.S. Census Bureau, 2007). They make up over $28 billion of direct spending and influence $250 billion dollars of family spending. In 2004, over the course of one year, advertisers spent $12 billion to target children (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2001, p. 423). Children have been a target for advertisers since there was a channel to reach them, but the effects are harmful. As a result of the lucrative market, advertisers are constantly seeking new ways to target younger and younger children to establish a brand name preference, at the earliest age possible. Advertising is a pervasive influence on children. They are being exposed to advertising on the internet, in schools, magazines, television and outdoors. When advertising is so ubiquitous, it is impossible to assume that a child is not influenced. For this very reason, several European countries have prohibited or restricted advertising to children, “in the UK, restrictions exist on ads that 'might result in harm to children physically, mentally or morally' and on ads employing methods that 'take advantage of the natural credulity and sense of loyalty of children” (Peace Pledge Union, 1997). However, advertising to children is perfectly legal in the United States and has very limited restriction. Although advertising to children creates business for many, it is harmful and its long term effect should be considered. Greater restrictions must be placed on the age of children that advertisements target and the content that they are sold, because young children lack the ability to cognitively process an advertisement, many advertisers are not concerned about the effect their product or message has on a child and children are often accidentally or purposefully influenced by alcohol and tobacco advertisements. To fully understand the negative effects on advertising to children, the history must first be reviewed. Before there was a direct channel to reach children, youth advertisements were directed at the parents, “Get your boy a gun. He will develop steady nerves, keener eyesight, health and boyish happiness.” Comic books were one of the first direct channels to target children. Comic books often used deceiving advertisements that displayed the product in an unrealistic form such as, “The world’s most terrifying rubber snake.”...
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