NPLAN/BMSG Meeting Memo
Research on Child Development:
Implications for How Children Understand and Cope with Digital Marketing
Louis J. Moses
University of Oregon
Memo prepared for
The Second NPLAN/BMSG Meeting on Digital Media and Marketing to Children
for the NPLAN Marketing to Children Learning Community
Berkeley, CA June 29 & 30, 2009
Sponsored by The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
Moses, page 1
Children today are confronted by a bewildering array of marketing practices. These practices are constantly evolving, increasingly complex, and often subtle in their implementation. Nowhere is the range of marketing phenomena more apparent than in the digital marketplace where children are exposed to marketing through a variety of media including interactive video games, social networking sites, mobile phones, and instant messaging.1 Research on children’s ability to understand and cope with marketplace advertising has a long history but that research has focused almost exclusively on children’s processing of traditional television advertising.2,3,4 The goal of this paper is to begin to lay out what theory and research on children’s development might suggest regarding their ability to negotiate the world of digital marketing.
Coming to appreciate the nature of marketing, and learning how to cope effectively with it, are not simple skills that instantaneously emerge at some well defined point in children’s development. Rather, a whole set of specific competencies needs to be acquired and slowly consolidated. Moreover, these competencies follow their own developmental timetables, timetables that likely differ in non-trivial ways across children and across cultural contexts.
Identifying Marketing and Recognizing its Purposes
To comprehend any form of marketing, children need an ability to distinguish it from other forms of media content. Simple recognition reveals little
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