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The Ethics of Advertising Aimed at Children

Updated on July 1, 2009

Is Advertising Aimed At Children Ethical?

You see it everywhere and much of it seems to try to be subtle. Everything a child picks up these days has some type of advertising on it. Cartoons are no longer fun and silly; they are long commercials for certain toys or television programs. One of the biggest advertisers to children today is Hannah Montana. Everyone wants to wear her clothes, have her book bags and do whatever they can to be like her.

One of the most important questions we have to ask ourselves is what this is doing to our children. Back in the 60s and 70s advertising was more subtle. When you asked a children growing up in that environment what they wanted to be when they grew up, you probably would find lots of teachers, presidents or doctors.

Today when you ask kids that same question you probably will get a variation of making money. The kids today have turned into a group of materialistic non-thinkers and many think this has to do with the advertising that goes directly to them.

Advertising has damaged children to a large extent. When you go to any toy department you can see how. The kids are literally begging parents for the newest and brightest advertising specialty. Whether it's the newest Wii gadget or the new Xbox, children are clamoring to be first in line. Many feel that if they do not have these things, they will not be liked by their peers.

One current television commercial shows a young boy advertising Dish Network. He's about 12 and all of his friends come over to watch their special shows with him because they either don't have cable or their cable isn't working. He tapes everyone's show and feels superior and self satisfied because he can help his friends.

Hannah Montana Merchandise

The Psychology Of Advertising To Children

Not only are children being bombarded by this advertising but the advertisers have help. Now leading psychologists are actually working alongside advertisers to tell them how to market to children aged 3 to12 and why these children do what they do. This has become such a problem that some psychologists are up in arms about it, and have taken the issue to the American Psychological Association (APA) to try and get some standards put on this situation.

The APA has created a task force to look into this issue because so much is being said about it. The task force will be examining the effects of advertising on children and the role of psychologists in the process. Some psychologists protest this action because they do not see it as doing anything wrong. They feel that by helping advertisers they are helping children become better consumers.

How Much Does Advertising Affect Its Audience?

A Road Safety Advert Aimed At Children - With Varied Reviews

The Youngest Consumers

While it is true that children are being exposed to goods and services geared to them at a very early age there are no studies so far that have looked at the effect of advertising on children.  This is creating problems for children in a clinical setting with some children and their families facing depression, low self-esteem and other issues that come from not having what they want.

As an example, Dr. Alan Kanner is leading the fight against the psychologists helping in advertising because he sees children every day who are experiencing problems. Children come into his office depressed because their parents won't buy them the violent video game or the designer labeled clothes they want. Parents are upset because though they do not want their children to be upset, they don’t think what their children want is a healthy choice.

What is very sad to us is that studies do show that when a child reaches 36 months old many of them can recognize at least 100 brand logos…does this mean that the first words of mamma and dada are being replaced by 501 and Hannah Montana? Can you imagine what that does to a parent's psyche?

How Many Hours of TV Do You Allow Your Child To Watch?

Why Advertisers Care About Advertising To Children

Although many people agree that this is exploitation of children in the worst way, advertisers think differently. The reason why children are so prized is because they can affect advertising in three ways. First, many young children have spending money of their own. Secondly, they can also tell their parents what they want and many are able to get exactly what they request. And finally, let's face it; children are the most open to advertising campaigns.

With these three tested and true ways of advertising, children have spent billions of dollars themselves and influenced several billion with their parents. The statistics are startling. According to Global Issues Website, the average child in the United States watches between 25,000 and 40,000 commercials each year. Advertisers spend $15 to $17 billion to market to U.S. children.

 In the U.S. teens spend about $160 billion a year, children up to 11 years of age spend about $18 billion a year and those children between the ages of 8-12 influence $30 billion in spending by their parents. About 80% of global brands actually go after the 8-12 market. Over $130-670 billion of parental purchases are influenced by children under 12.

The advertisers care about money and their advertising seems to be working. If children were not buying their products, they would stop advertising to them. Advertisers get to the children because they advertise on every device that children use. From television to iPods to cell phones and websites children are bombarded.

Adverts For Unhealthy Foods Have Been Banned At Certain Times & On Certain Channels

Is Advertising To Children Ethical?

When you examine the evidence you have to make your own conclusions. This issue is one that is very difficult for most people and there is no real solution. It is the way of advertising and advertisers to do many things to make money. Ethics may not enter into the picture in the way we think about it.

The bottom line is that parents have to watch what their children watch and help them be more discerning in what they do. This will make sure that their children understand the value in real things versus quick gratification.

Junk Food Ad Ban


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    • profile image

      The Shadow 4 years ago

      this is all bs because of the way sick advertised breed even sicker people

    • profile image

      alaine elizabeth 4 years ago

      alaine elizabeth (caleb university, imota, lagos)

      it is indeed true that advertising has a great influence on children. This issue is one of many in advertising that needs serious attention. Today in the world many children want what is been advertised without thinking of the financial consequences, in the sense that many parents end up paying heavily just to stiafy their children's desire. I just think that advertising bodies should create better regulation policies to be able to control advertisements for the benefit of our children as they are the leaders of tomorrow.

    • profile image

      Giles Kearsley 5 years ago

      I strongly agree lol #addsforlife

    • profile image

      priyanshu uppal 5 years ago

      stop eating junk food.

    • profile image

      Nick 5 years ago

      Get rid of anything that has commercials... and save money

      Cable costs how much? Netflix is 8$ a month to stream and requires at least a 5Mbps internet connection. with a basic internet package and the Netflix you will still be spending less than cable or satellite. Netflix has a wide variety of childrens content and no commercials. You can either plug a computer into a television or use a dedicated device like a wii or a roku or a blu ray player... with the money you will save these devices will pay for themselves

    • profile image

      UncleRob 6 years ago

      I have to agree.... This is very sensitive subject to breach. We see it everyday; from children asking for a certain toy that they want from a TV show or a breakfast cereal with cartoon characters on them. It's funny you don't hear more people talking about it on TV. I believe most media maybe censored by the advertising industry.

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      Davo 6 years ago

      Good work people helped me on my assignment heaps and you have been an excellent resource. cheers

    • profile image

      TanThowi 6 years ago

      Say No to Junk Food!!!

    • profile image

      Guest 6 years ago

      I guess so

    • profile image

      jamesz 6 years ago

      This is a huge problem that children are watching a commercial on TV that promote unhealthy food. Thanks for hub

    • profile image

      altın çilek 6 years ago

      Quite an interesting article ;)

    • profile image

      sidi 7 years ago

      kids are gunnna b fat

    • profile image

      VivekSri 7 years ago

      that one clicks. awesome article! love it , I agree with the points you are trying to make. nice hub.

    • reviewadon profile image

      reviewadon 7 years ago

      people are always going to want to make money, unfortuantely kids are exploited for greed. Don't see it changing any time soon either.

    • profile image

      Big Boss 7 years ago

      stop eating junk food

    • profile image

      kritika kapoor 7 years ago

      stop eating junk food

    • profile image

      FROLO BOSS 8 years ago

      Popici mam na anglinu dikes :D

    • profile image

      SEO-Expert-India 8 years ago

      Quite an interesting article. Marketing and Advertising for kids is surely a tricky scenario.