Effects of Advertisements on Children
It should come as to no surprise that each day, one gets to see almost a dozen of advertisements from print to video. Everywhere one turns, there will be an advertisement for a brand or a government project. Many see this as a way of life, others see it as a visual nuisance, while there are those who are immediately enticed to try out the product for various reasons. However, if one looks closely at these advertisements, it would be obvious that they are targeting a specific age group. Many parents and educators would raise their eyes if they noticed this hidden strategy of companies while some would bat lashes on them. Nevertheless, there are certain effects of these advertising strategies that would be detrimental for child development. Most advertisements teach children to become more materialistic and dependent into these advertisements to set their ideal life, which may not fit them.
Children or the younger generation is seen as a profitable market by many advertising companies and corporations due to their influence to their parents. According to Moyer-Guse and Riddle (2009), studies have shown that young people nowadays have a direct spending power as they are given free reign as to what they buy. In 2005, teenagers in the US ages 13 to 18 spent at least $159 million on toys, clothing, makeup and a variety of child-friendly items. Children and teenagers are also seen to influence the spending of their parents, a form of indirect spending power. This can be seen when children have preferences over the type and brand of cereal, snack, and beverage, which then influences what their parents would buy for their home. This indirect and direct spending power is then seen as an important leverage by advertising companies to use as they promote their product to the public. Some advertisers also see the younger market as a new motivation in building their loyalty to the brand . Graboviy (2011) noted that each year, at least 40,000 different commercials are viewed by children, which enable children to easily remember the brand whether the child hears the brand or the theme song. Studies have also seen this similarity when children identify the brand and associate it with a particular attribute or characteristic. This thinking alone is supported by the fact that children nowadays have their own television set or computer in their own bedrooms and the timeslot they usually are in front of the television. This leverage alone is seen by companies as the key to get more consumers for their brand and earn their loyalty for the next few years to come.
According to Gunter, Oates and Illades (2005), advertising encourages children to learn social and religious traditions, events and stories. Although they may be seen in an alternative format or commercialized one, the essence of the social or religious tradition or story is nevertheless present. In one example, children easily associate Santa Clause to Christmas or wizards to magic like Harry Potter or Lord of The Rings. This opens them to the world of literature as well since they will try to learn more about these characters. In the end of the advertiser, this allows them to match the character, like Santa, to a particular item that children would easily connect to a product. Critics also note that there is a diversity when it comes to advertising in a more international and foreign market while using the same advertising strategy. Children also become more aware of other cultures, races and traditions when they see advertisements showing children of other countries. Not only does this open up new choices for children, they also understand the importance of these traditions and styles to other kids who buy the item. In one study, it has been seen that advertising products from different countries and offering it to children from another country does not hinder their idea of their own traditions and cultures.
Macklin and Carlson (1999) added that children often use advertising to understand the concepts of the things around them such as toys, food, and even clothing. Although their choices and knowledge about brands are limited to a few visits in the store, advertising helps them pick up ideas. For children, advertising tells them the best toys to get, new cereal brands of their favourite characters, and even new offers on their favourite food chains. Once these children enter school, they also use advertising as a way to compare what they hear from what they see. The experiences and things they learn from their friends become their foundation to look at the advertisement for the product and see it for themselves. Once they compare the thoughts of their friends from what they see on television, they would learn that some of these ads are exaggerated, and eventually, take charge to know what they need to buy or what fits their preference. Normally, children who watch more advertisements are more likely to trust them than hear reviews. Most of them would even say that advertising is power .
However, advertising also has its negative effects on children which serve as a concern for many parents and experts as they see how it hinders their growth physically, socially and mentally. Most advertisements concentrate in showing a perfect lifestyle that many young children and adolescents would want to have. This can be seen in alcohol and tobacco advertisements, wherein advertisers use animations and catchphrases that click with the younger market. Children then recall the brand easier when they recall the catchphrases and characters, thereby identifying which one caught their interest. For some products, they use celebrities to entice their fans to buy the product, thereby adding the likeable factor of the product to the child . Some advertisements such as those for food also entice children to try out fast foods and junk food, foregoing to eat healthy because they saw the product. As a result, obesity and early childhood complications have arose around the globe because children prefer the food they see on television than the healthy ones served to them. In a psychological aspect, advertisements entices children to focus more on trying to adapt to the ever-changing society and act differently if they fail to do so. Studies have shown that some children who are overly exposed to advertisements and products try to copy what they see on television advertisements since its trending. Others will even fall into a state of depression if they fail to get the item, throw violent tantrums until they get what they want. Other children even lose their sense to understand and keep their emotions in check and sense of reality. Socially, children would go to advertising to see what is hit with their friends and buy it so they can become friends with the children they meet. In a general sense, this is seen as a stereotyping advertising is good for .
The negative effects outweighs the optimistic positive effects of advertising in children, since the trend shows nowadays that children become materialistic and dependent on advertising to fit the popular norm. The number of advertisements directed to children also increase each year which is troubling as products now use violent and fictional content to get the interest of the children. To lessen up the negative effects of advertisements to children, parents must be able to guide their children properly and help them understand the pros and cons of each item or brand they see on television. Children are very inquisitive, which is why it is important to help them distinguish the reasons why they cannot easily just purchase an item they see on television. Without proper guidance and proper education when it comes to the pros and cons of believing in advertising, it is a possibility that the growing trend of materialism and unwavering loyalty of children to advertising will never be prevented.
Graboviy, A. (2011). Consumerism and its Dangers to Children: A Call for Regulation in Advertising. Gatton Student Research Publication, 3(1), 1-11.
Gunter, B., Oates, C., & Ilades, M. (2005). Advertising to Children on TV: Content, Impact and Regulation. Mahwah: Routledge.
Macklin, C., & Carlson, L. (1999). Advertising to children: concepts and controversies. Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications.
Moyer-Guse, E., & Riddle, K. (2009). The Media’s Impact on Children: A Handbook for Parents, Educators and Policymakers. Spain: ARESTA.