Can the Relationship Between Kids & Advertisements Change?

There have been some steps taken towards bettering the way kids see advertisements,

Nickelodeon has told kids watching their channel that they should put down the remote and go outside and play. In an article from FOX News, they talk about how Nickelodeon is trying to encourage a balanced lifestyle with the children that are watching their station. Sunday nights at 8:30 they show how children like the ones watching have made a difference in their family or in the community to improve eating or exercise habits. Marva Smalls, an executive vice president with the Nickelodeon cable channel said, “Our hope for the outcome is we will have great traction in this movement, in this journey, to create the healthiest generation of kids among our audience” (2006, para. 10). Nickelodeon tries to influence a balanced lifestyle by not watching tv all day, and they have signed up as many as 100,000 kids to help in the community to either switch out junk food for healthier food in school or encouraging other to workout.

Melissa Dittmann, writer for the American Psychological Association, makes us aware of how much effort is put into advertising different things toward children through an online article, Protecting Children from Advertising. The APA has designed a task force to help stop harmful effects of advertising on children. This is broken down and given to us in sections of statistics of children watching, how many commercials they see and how much money is used for it. For example $12 billion is spent by the advertising industry on ads geared toward children. Also Dittmann breaks it down by informing us on advertising effects and also the increasing efforts toward children.

The article, Television, Commercials, and Your Child,  talks about a research study from 2010 that focuses on how much television kids watch and how it affects them. Depending on what acts they are seeing happen on the television can shape how they decide to act, it could be violent, sexual, inappropriate, but it can also be positive. It all depends on what the child is allowed to watch, and if there are any time restrictions. There is talk about the Telecommunications Act in 1996, and this Act created a rating system to determine what content is contained in the program and if it would be appropriate or not for children. This article mentions that there are three different ways advertising can influence children; the use of multimedia techniques to hold children’s attention, young children struggle with knowing the difference between commercials and programs, and they also struggle with knowing the difference between reality and what they’re being told. On child friendly networks there were both positive and negative content, there was a study based on 12,004 commercials airing between 7AM and 10PM. Positive content showed role modeling, encouragement, medical and health benefits, and positive interactions. Negative content included violent behaviors like harmful physical violence, threatening, harm to an animal or oneself, destruction of property, and disturbing behaviors like unexpected accidents, graphic bodily disintegration or disasters. There were also negative content including sexual behaviors and negative modeling, like smoking and drinking.

As a parent, it is important to inform your child on the purpose of advertisements and the difference between an advertisement and a program. Kids need to know that the purpose of advertisements is to sell a product, no matter what the product is. It could be useful to monitor your child’s media intake and set boundaries on the time they spend and content they are consuming through all mediums. Also, there are options to install ad blockers on computers to filter the ads that are allowed to pop up. One step at a time, the relationship with kids and advertisements can be improved. 


What is the Problem?

Advertisers are able to easily reach younger audiences through many different mediums. The reaction and effect the advertisement has is based on the age of the audience. Younger kids sometimes have a tough time understanding what they’re seeing, whereas older kids understand what they see and they can have more of a consumer effect.

Up to the age of three, children think that objects on video are real and exist in the TV set or device. In an online article, Report of the APA Task Force on Advertising and Children, there is information about the growth in advertising appealing to children. With cable, then the internet, then channels and websites dedicated to children. It is common for children to have televisions in their room, and many kids don’t always have supervision when it comes to the television and internet. With children accessing media easily at young ages increases advertising intended for children, there has been a drastic increase in money spent on advertising from the 1970’s. There is mention about cognitive development and advertising and that most young children don’t have the mindset to notice the difference in advertisements and programs. It also talks about the effects of advertising on children and how advertising typically achieves its intended effects. Children are most likely to ask for things they’ve seen commercials for, and that will influence what their parents purchase. Sometimes advertisements can become a source of a conflict between a child and parent if the parent denies the child’s request. Advertisements for kids are commonly unhealthy food options which can be linked to obesity and poor health. 

Believe it or not, teens process approximately 3,000 advertising messages every day, most of them discreet and a good portion of them related to junk food and beverage consumption. In an article, Cons of Advertising to Teenagers, written by Elle Smith, discusses why and how the advertisers target their younger audience. The market of teens causes a major attraction to advertisers because teens are more susceptible to to fall under the spell of buying the various brands through commercials. Between the range of 10 through 16 years of age, these teens are at their most crucial developmental stage. Most of them are trying to find out who they are as a person as well as how they can properly fit into their society. If they fall under the spell of advertisements, this could completely shape the teenager’s identity without them even knowing. Teens process approximately 3,000 advertising messages every day, most of them discreet and a good portion of them related to junk food and beverage consumption.

In the article, Children as Consumers: Advertising and Marketing, Sandra Calvert addresses product marketing to children and shows that although marketers have targeted children for decades, two recent trends have increased their interest in child consumers. First, both the discretionary income of children and their power to influence parent purchases have increased over time. Second, as the enormous increase in the number of available television channels has led to smaller audiences for each channel, digital interactive technologies have simultaneously opened new routes to narrow cast to children, thereby creating a growing media space just for children and children’s products. Calvert explains that paid advertising to children primarily involves television spots that feature toys and food products, most of which are high in fat and sugar and low in nutritional value. Newer marketing approaches have led to online advertising and to so-called stealth marketing techniques, such as embedding products in the program content in films, online, and in video games. All these marketing strategies, says Calvert, make children younger than eight especially vulnerable because they lack the cognitive skills to understand the persuasive intent of television and online advertisements. The new stealth techniques can also undermine the consumer defenses even of older children and adolescents. Calvert explains that government regulations implemented by the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission provide some protection for children from advertising and marketing practices. Regulators exert more control over content on scarce television airwaves that belong to the public than over content on the more open online spaces. Overall, Calvert concludes, children live and grow up in a highly sophisticated marketing environment that influences their preferences and behaviors.

With the advertisements shown today, many minors are exposed to advertisements for alcohol and tobacco which can be linked to youth smoking and drinking. The information that kids see in the media can shape who they are in both good and bad ways. There wont be anything we can do, right now, to completely control the information kids consume, but we can help limit the negative information. There have been some steps already taken, but there is still more to do. 

Our Goal

Our campaign is going to target parents with kids in hopes of educating them on the effects that advertisements and consumerism have on their children. Consumerism, meaning, the economic strategy that encourages the purchase of goods and services. The reason behind why we chose this is because companies create advertisements that target kids all the time. Parents still have the majority say in what their kids see and want, however, as their kids get older they start to get their own understanding as to what is a want and what is a need. We hope to help aid parents to better educate their children on how to differentiate between advertisements as well as pure entertainment.

Overall, we want our message to be an educational one. We want to teach parents how to not only manage what their children are watching but also how to educate them on it. Our hope is that by teaching parents to limit their children’s screen time it will lessen the effect that advertisements have on them. We also hope to educate parents on early childhood development and how prolonged exposure to these advertisements can affect their growth.