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Should People Advertise to Children ?

Updated on March 5, 2018

The History of Advertisement

Advertisement has been being used by humans from as far back as, Ancient Rome and Pompeii times. Advertisement then, leading up to about about 1874 often targeted adults and were used to sell property and merchandise. Advertising officially took off with the invention of mass media such as; printing, radio and television. People of 1874 and earlier were much more reserved, and worries of children getting their hands on inappropriate ads were little to none.

Advertising in the Late 1800's

Advertising in the late 1800's mainly showed inventions and items that made one's life easier.
Advertising in the late 1800's mainly showed inventions and items that made one's life easier. | Source

Leo Burnett on Advertising

"Good advertising does not just circulate information. It penetrates the public mind with desires and belief."

-Leo Burnett

Working Advertisement into the Minds of Children

Commercial items like toys and cloths, appealed to children. But it wasn't until the invention of television that children finally began taking an interests on things being advertised. This later was followed by the invention of cable television. Cable television was a primary market place for advertisers to make entire channels and commercials to get children to feel as if they needed what was being advertised. Cable was later followed by the world wide web, or internet.

Young Children and Advertising

"Young children are increasingly the target of advertising and marketing because of the amount of money they spend themselves, the influence they have on their parents spending (the nag factor) and because of the money they will spend when they grow up"

-Sharon Beder

Further Expansion..

Advertising to children over the years has grown, and grown. Almost as soon as the internet became available to everyone, websites were created to advertise to children. Within the last few years alone, thousands upon thousands of websites have been created to target and advertise to children. These websites vary from educational to entertainment sites.

Now there are websites for gaming, watching shows, and buying toys. Websites like PBS Kids, and Sesame Street may be targeted to helping children learn, but there are also hidden messages embedded in them. For one, children see the cartoon characters and go out in search of games and toys like them. This is when the toy and gaming industry go hand in hand with advertising and children's shows.

By simply sitting a child in front of the television for an hour, to keep them quite, parents are essentially giving their children something to want to buy. A popular example is Elmo. Seeing an Elmo show or movie, leads to children begging for Elmo stuffed animals, books, and Elmo themed birthday parties. Although they are not terrible things for your kid to want, it leads to unnecessary spending. Commercials can advertise an Elmo toy, dancing and walking, leading to parents being nagged into getting the toy. Then once they have the toy they are most likely over it, within the next 2-6 months.

Things such as birthday parties with cartoon character themes, can consist of 50-100 dollars of spending. When in reality, all the plates/ balloons, table covers, end up in the trash at the end anyways. The problem with investing in buying products of a child's favorite character over and over, is that they easily grow out of them. Elmo may be their favorite this year but next year it might be Bob the builder.

Leisure Time Spent on Activities

Non-Technology Activities
Consume Media
Read for Fun
Communicate with Media
During a cyber psychology study done by Masaryk University, it showed participants spent about half their leisure time (50.7%) on an average day consuming and communicating with electronic media.

No More Playing Outside

Today less and less  children are playing outside like they once did 10-20 years ago.
Today less and less children are playing outside like they once did 10-20 years ago. | Source

"Technology can be our best friend, and technology can also be the biggest party pooper of our lives. It interrupts our own story, interrupts our ability to have a thought or a daydream, to imagine something wonderful, because we're too busy bridging the walk from the cafeteria back to the office on the cell phone."

-Steven Spielberg

What can we Do?

Before, child-targeted marketing, used to only concentrate on candy and toys. Today it includes clothes, shoes, and fast food, to name a few. The problem with today's advertisement is that it now includes adult products such as cars, and credit cards. According to, "In Australia, children under 18 have an average $31.60 to spend each week and they influence more than 70 per cent of their parents' clothes and fast food purchases.". Children are not only spending their own money but they're spending their parents hard earned money too.

The article goes on to talk about American children and their influenced spending. This section stated, "In the US there are over 57 million school age children and teenagers who spend about $100 billion each year of their own and their family's money on sweets, food, drinks, video and electronic products, toys, games, movies, sports, clothes and shoes." So not only are teenagers persuading their parents, but school aged children are too. What once used to be grocery money, or money for everyday necessities is now, wasting away on things that are not necessities. All of this because of advertising to children and teens.

The last and very strong point that the article makes is that marketers know what they are doing, they know they can use children as a pawn. Many markets such as fast-food chains and the toy industry can easily target children, and have the excuse that children need it or love it. The difference now is that children influence the car industry. Children are actually persuading their parents to buy specific car/makes/ or colors of cars. The article is quoted as saying "Advertisers recognize that brand loyalties and consumer habits formed when children are young and vulnerable will be carried through to adulthood...Retailers and manufacturers have two sources of new customers, those who they can persuade to change from their competitors and those who have not yet entered the market." Advertisers see that adults are not easily persuaded and children are. So instead of waiting until the children are adults they manipulate their way of thinking and spending while they're young.

Finally, the question is "What can we do?". There are many steps one can take. Advertising to children is ever growing, and there's nothing one can really do to stop every company from manipulating a child's mind. However, parents can reverse the affects by first communicating. Even if the child is as old as 3-4, if they can talk, they can understand. Start with explaining that the company is only trying to get them to buy, and ask about what is being left out. Another way is to explain that the company uses cartoons and other creatures to speak during advertisements, so that they think they need it. Lastly, the most important thing one can do is limit the amount of time that the child spends in front of electronic devices.

Thank you for reading my Hub Page, to learn more about advertising to children and it's harms, visit the links below:










How Advertising Affects Children - Jean Kilbourne, EdD

Michelle Obama on Food Marketing & Advertising to Children - Speech (2013)

Advertising To Children

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Go Out with them and Play!

Parents should make their child well-rounded and living a balanced life. Parents should provide them freedom, and time to play outside.
Parents should make their child well-rounded and living a balanced life. Parents should provide them freedom, and time to play outside. | Source


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