A Research Essay Written By:
The Truth Behind Advertisements Targeting Children
One of the largest and most profitable industries in the world is the advertising industry. Last year the advertising industry spent around 150 billion dollars in the U.S. alone (“TNS Media Intelligence”). That’s enough money to give every person on the planet 20 dollars and then have enough left over to buy 150,000 Porsche Carrera’s. Advertising consumes all facets of the media and affects everyone young and old. It’s near impossible to go anywhere today without seeing some sort of ad, whether it’s a billboard for Victoria Secret, or a television ad for Corn Flakes. Though there are multitudes of aspects to explore in advertising, one of the most debated is advertising’s effects on children, especially children younger than twelve. Whether arguing for, or against advertisements targeting children, it’s important to understand and investigate all the aspects of marketing products specifically to young children: the ethics, the effects on mental and physical health, the economic value of children and how it’s affected by advertising as well as the responsibilities parents have in monitoring their children and what they watch. Both sides of the issue have strong fact-based arguments to support their position. Should children be specifically targeted by advertising companies? There really is no right or wrong answer to this question; it’s a matter of taking the facts, weighing out the pros and cons and then reaching a personal conclusion. That being said, children are affected by advertising, whether it be specifically directed and fabricated for them or indirectly, from other advertising. This issue has been debated for decades and is still debated today. This topic is far from one-sided, and far from over. The ad industry’s methods of administering advertisements directed at young children (12-years-old or younger) has seen noticeable development with the advent of new technologies along with the ready availability of mass media. “By the time most U.S. children start school they will have spent 5000 hours watching television. They will spend more time watching television than they spend in class for their entire schooling,” (qtd. in Beder). Before the advent of the commercially available television in the late 1930’s, this number would have been non-existent. So the opportunity to exploit children through T.V. ads isn’t much of a challenge at all, not to mention the along with television there are movies, DVD’s and video games which are all new ways for the ad industry to dive into. Recently video games have become so popular that companies that don’t even make games are paying other companies to insert advertisements for their products in the actual games. For example, one popular video game on the market today is called Grand Theft Auto, in this game the main character drives around an imaginary city reaping havoc on it, but as you’re driving billboards for various real-life products are visible everywhere. This just shows how far the advertising industry has come in the last 30 years, from billboards on actual roads to billboards on roads in virtual reality, the possibilities are endless. On top of television and its accessories, the internet has become the tool of choice it would seem for mass ads and offers. To children today, using a computer is just as easy as brushing their teeth. A study on four to six-year-olds showed that over 50 percent have used a computer by themselves (Stanley). This is a quite substantial figure considering that the internet really didn’t fully develop its ‘user-friendly’ capabilities until the mid 1990’s and it was still quite difficult to use compared to today’s standards. Now, only around ten years later, children as young as four have access to millions upon millions of different web pages. This may or may not be...