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The Effect of Advertising on Children
The Effect of Advertising on Children
“Prior to attending kindergarten, the average child will see 5,000 hours of television. By the time most children graduate from high school, they will have watched an estimated 22,000 hours of TV,” (Marconi, 56). During these thousands of hours, the children view commercial after commercial and it has been shown that many of these commercials are targeted towards children. This abundant exposure to commercials has raised many concerns about how these advertisements affect children psychologically. Many people believe that children are being manipulated by advertisements, which affects the way the children think and live.
There must be a reason marketing companies are targeting children. Why would companies target children who aren’t of age to earn an income. According to McNeil advertisement companies are targeting children for reasons such as:
• Parents are having fewer children therefore providing their children more things that they want, and not only need.
• There has been an increase in one-parent households therefore including the child in economic decisions.
• Parents are having their children later in life. This results in being more financially stable.
• Both parents are working resulting in the child doing more things around the house which not only provides children with money of their own, but it also gives parents more of a reason to award the children with products that children “want”. (64-65)
Children know ways to manipulate their parents into buying items that are not part of the family income plan. Advertisements teach children that to get what they want, they have to persuade their parents into buying the item. Children have always begged parents for goods, but now they learn new ways of doing so from advertisements. An example slogan from an advertisement is: ‘”It’s fun [for the child] and it’s educational [for the child’s parents]”’ (McNeil, 73). When children see this on TV they are then able to go to their parents with ideas of their own. They use phrases that relate to subjects that parents worry and talk about frequently such as: education, health, time, economy, happiness, and security. A few examples of children’s pleas are: “You want me to learn don’t you?”, “Don’t you want me to be healthy?”, “It’ll save you time.”, “You want me to be happy don’t you?”, and many others. Children will often try these appeals again, and again, depending on the reaction of the parents. (73)
From advertisements, children also learn techniques and styles to use on their parents to create the perfect outcome. There are seven different styles that children have learned: pleading, persistent, forceful, demonstrative, sugar-coated, threatening, and pity (McNeil, 73). One common style of children is the pleading style, which sounds like, “Puleeze”. Some styles consist of children asking over and over again, or even by shouting and throwing a tantrum. “The style is learned mainly as a result of the parents’ responses to each style” (McNeil, 73). Style is as important as appeals to find the intended outcome for children.
Advertisement companies are also known to target children for purchasing items for themselves. Although children do not have jobs, a large portion of the society’s children receives allowances weekly from their parents. “Children save over $2.5 billion annually of their own income,” (McNeal, 108). Children are also targets due to the fact that they buy toys in many different types of retail stores such as supermarkets, convenience stores, and toy stores. Children also are very likely to shop with their parents, influencing family income decisions (McNeil, 108). In other words, children are very important to marketers in the idea that children not only buy things themselves, but they also influence much of the families income. Because of this fact marketers believe that it is appropriate for them to spend their time and money on targeting children.
Children are targeted through many different approaches, which have changed over time. At one time the radio was popular to children, but then the television became mainstream, and the radio did not play as big of a role in the advertisement market. “Television advertising is still the favorite medium for reaching out to kids, but other standard advertising media-magazines, newspapers, radio-have been gaining presence in the children’s market,” (McNeil, 130). There are many different approaches to gaining the children’s attention, but how much attention are the children giving these advertisements, and how are the children interpreting them?
According to McNeil the television is one of the greatest sources of advertisements (138). In The Journal of Advertising, Pawlowski believes that children are more attracted to more colorful and creative advertisements rather than more plain ones. The radio is not quite as good due to the fact that there are no pictures or bright colors. Magazines or newspapers have never been directed towards children besides the comic ads, but marketers are now releasing newspapers directed more towards children alone. One of these newspapers is the Weekly Reader, which contains articles and ads specifically for children. One of the newest and most successful locations for advertisements is on the Internet. Children spend hours surfing the Internet, where they find many sites and ads directed for children. Some of the most common sites for children are Fox Kids, Disney, and other TV channels that have websites. Here children are able to play many different types of games, and research many different subjects. Not only are there many games at these sites, there are also tremendous amounts of advertisements for children. “Advertisements are now participating in joint communications efforts in which one source may coordinate all communication efforts under one umbrella called integrated marketing, in which one channel may be used to carry all the communications. For example, a joint effort has begun between Pizza Hut and Nickelodeon that is an attempt to link the two in the minds of kids” (pg 131). An example of this is when a child goes to Pizza Hut to eat dinner with their family. In their children meal is a toy figure that advertises a cartoon or movie from the Nickelodeon channel. As a result of the joint effort, children have advertisements of companies linked in their head with the majority of things that they do or see in a day. Then advertisements can play a large part of a child’s life.
Children begin watching television almost as soon as the day they are born. There is often a television on somewhere, whether in the hospital room, or the living room while being fed. Even as babies, children seem to be attracted to the television. There are bright colors, lots of movement, and loud sounds, that cause children to tune in immediately. According to Macklin and Carlson, children preceding age five do not understand the difference between the commercials and the television shows. They believe that the advertisements are also a form of entertainment (Macklin, 6). The danger in this is that the children do not understand what the goal of advertisements is. At the age of 7 or 8 children finally are beginning to understand the concept of advertisements (Macklin, 6). “According to Pawloski in the Journal of Advertising, “Younger children may explain a metaphor in advertising as how they actually remember seeing the picture, but may not have the ability to connect the metaphor with its actual contextual meaning,” (4). The reason that so many advertisements are dangerous for younger children is that since they don’t know what the advertisements goals are, they believe everything that they see, but older children know the goals, therefore, theoretically they should be able ignore the commercials easier. An important question is if the older children actually believe the advertisement?
Advertisements affect children in many different ways. One example of a highly debated advertisement/product is the Barbie doll. The doll is very unporportional. If she were a real person she would not be able to menstruate because she is too skinny. She would also be unable to stand upright due to the fact that her breast size is too big for the rest of her body, and this would cause a lot of back problems. This is a doll, so what is all of the controversy about? According to Marconi the Barbie doll portrays a woman’s body that a young will never be able to obtain (57). To many young s Barbie is one of their role s, and they hope to grow up to look like her. Defenders of Barbie say that the doll is just a toy, and should not be used as a role (57). How does this one doll have problems for children psychologically? Young s believe that to be happy and pretty they must look like Barbie. Since Barbie is an unrealistic of a woman’s body, the young will grow up never satisfied with herself. This unsatisfaction with one’s self is a leading cause of psychological problems.
Young s are not the only children with this problem. Young boys grow up playing with GI Joe figures that are tall, extremely muscular, and are out to save the world. The toys would be different if there was not a TV show that went along with it, but there is. This cartoon shows young boys what the dolls do, and what the young boys should want to grow up to be. These toys portray the idea that makes a man strong, and a better person (59-60). Although boys aren’t affected as strongly as the s, the boys do have problems.
The issue of weight and body shapes are first introduced to children when they are young, but as they grow up this becomes a greater problem, especially in s. “Female adolescents are exposed to greater number of messages and images in advertising related to physical attractiveness than male adolescents,” (Macklin, 168). There are many magazines that are targeted towards teenage females, such as Seventeen, which has the potential to influence many s into re-thinking about their weight and body shape. These types of magazines express ideas that tell children they need to be a particular weight, and shape to be pretty, smart, and popular, and they give many ideas on how to get to this desired weight. This gives children the idea that they are not good enough, which puts a lot of stress on the children.
Because children encounter advertisements so often, values are established through them (Macklin, 119 ). In the video Us Softly, it discusses the idea how women should feel perfect, and to feel this way they must buy certain products. TV advertisements expand on the idea that being beautiful is what we wear and not who we are. A TV commercial advertising a toner said, “Do something about your hips”, (Killing Us Softly). This advertisement expresses the idea that women are not doing enough. Another advertisement says, “I’d probably never be married now if I hadn’t lost 49 pounds!” (Killing Us Softly). Young children watching this learn that they need products to be popular and beautiful.
Advertisements degrade women. One hair commercial says “ My boyfriend told me he loved me for my mind, I was never so insulted in my life,” which makes women look ditzy (Killing Us Softly). Advertisements make women feel like they are not beautiful unless they are skinny, and they won’t be happy unless they are beautiful. These advertisements try to push women to buy their products, and to do this they make the women look like they aren’t doing enough, and they can be beautiful if they try. Another obsession that is pushed upon women is the idea that you have to look good to keep your man. This causes competition and jealousy among women. Because of this idea, women never feel like they look good enough, which results in unhappiness (Killing Us Softly). As young s watch and read these advertisements, they get the idea that they need to think like this, and they need to get these products to look beautiful.
Becky Thompson is a psychiatric nurse who sees people in clinical settings to assess their medication effectiveness. She talks and listens to the patients, and then reports to the doctor her diagnosis. She has been working specifically with children for the last year, but has been working with them in general for the last 26 years. According to Thompson, “TV has the major effect in terms of ual stereotypes, body misperceptions, and this effects their ideas of who they should be.” Becky believes that children grow up seeing the way that they should be on advertisements, and eventually creates a conflict when they find out that that is not what they are going to be like. The most common disorders that Becky sees daily is ADHD, depression, and oppositional behavior. “I don’t believe that advertisements cause these disorders directly, but these disorders are an accumulation of things in their lives, which advertisements play a big part of,” (Thompson).
The idea that marketers know so much about children, and how to target them was a troubling question that many people had until it was found that advertising companies hired psychologists to help them. This is a rather interesting concept considering that some psychologists work so hard on healing the children from advertisements, while other psychologists are on the other side of the spectrum, and they are causing these problems. Psychologists do this by telling the advertising companies how children should be targeted to affect them. They know the most about children’s minds and how they will respond to the advertisements. This is a sad idea not knowing whom you can trust. People think that psychologists are about helping children heal from the problems caused by advertisements when we find that all along psychologists are working for the companies causing the problems.
Advertisements can be a dangerous form of manipulation for our society. Although advertisements do affect all age groups, children are the most harmed by them. The advertising companies are not harming the children by trying to get the children to spend their money, but they are damaging their attitudes, their values, and their self esteems. It isn’t that advertisement companies don’t think that they are doing this, they know. They hire people to exploit the mind of a child, and they will do anything that they can to make their money.
Thompson, Becky. December 2, 2001.
Cohn, Edward. “Marketwatch: Consuming Kids.” The American Prospect Jan 31, 2000:
“For Kids on the Web, It’s An Ad, Ad, Ad, Ad World.” Business Week August 13, 2001:
Killing Us Softly. Jean Kilbourne. Cambridge Documentary Films, Inc.
Macklin, M. Carole and Carlson, Les. Advertising to Children. Thousand Oaks, London,
and New Delhi: Sage Publications, 1999.
McNeal, James U. Kids as Customers. New York, NY, and Don Mills, Ontario Manning, Steven. “Branding Kids for Life.” The Nation Nov. 20, 2000: pg 7.
Marconi, Joe. Shock Marketing. Chicago, IL: Bonus Books, Inc, 1997:
Lexington Books, 1992.
Moore, Elizabeth S. and Richard J. Lutz. “Children, Advertising, and Product
Experiences: A Multimethod Inquiry. “ Journal of Consumer Research v27 (2000): pg 31.
Pawlowski, Donna R., Diane M. Badzinski, Nancy Mitchell. “Effects of Metaphors on
children’s comprehension and perception of print advertisements.” Journal of Advertising v27 (1998): 19.
|advertising, children, effect|
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