The Effects of Using Psychology in Marketing and Advertising to Children
How many hours a day is the television on in your home?
Do you or family members ever eat while watching television?
The Effects of Using Psychologist to Market to Children
There is a not so silent monster out there eating away at our family connection, our pocket books and our mental, physical and social well being. Not only does it attack us on a moment to moment basis but it is now attacking our children at an alarming rate. This monster is not only being fed by us, it is also being trained by licensed psychologist, the people trained to protect us from mental and also physical harm. Our major conglomerates that are " in truth" running the media show for us, are now attacking our children with the use of trained psychologist's knowledge of children's behaviors in order to manipulate them into wanting to buy their products.
Call to Arms
A letter written to the APA in September 1999 called for the APA to denounce the use of psychology techniques for the purpose of marketing to children. This letter signed by 60 psychologists and psychiatrists points out that other countries actually have laws set in place to protect children from advertisers. These laws include restricting advertising of toys to children from 7:00 am to 10:00 pm. Quebec outlawed print advertising to children under 13 altogether. Unfortunately, the United States has no laws restricting advertising practices to children in place at this time.(1)
Here Comes the Calvary
Media Awareness Network, a Canadian not-for-profit center for Media literacy, whose mission is to educate parents and children about the effects of media on their lives uses the phrase “Pester Power”. This refers to the power children now have more than any previous time in history to “Pester” their parents into purchasing new things for them. Their website cites a consumer report that states that children between two and five can't tell the difference between commercials and TV shows. And they can't tell the difference between fantasy and reality as it is shown on television. This website and websites like it are fighting to educated the public about the effects of media on society.(2)
By employing knowledgeable psychologist on the subject of children's psychological development and characteristics companies can market in an effective and yes even manipulative way to children. This is seen as an unfair tactic and promotes consumerism in children at a very early age. Brand recognition is among the top strategies used by marketing companies . Children as young as 6 months old can recognize logos and company mascots.(2) These companies hope to grab their clients young, and create a lifetime relationship with them. One example may be, a parent who remembers playing with a certain to from the company Fisher Price as a child will more than likely turn around and favor toys from that company for their own children. These companies are looking at the short and long term effects their advertising will have on the market. This seemingly desperate attempt to en capture innocent children as well as their parents may have no boundaries and is clearly psychological manipulation. These companies play on our emotions in the way that they create advertising that depicts happy families sitting around the new item or happy quiet children enjoying their new toy.
Our children have really no way of escaping this constant mind washing their receiving. It is seen everywhere. On the way to school in the form of billboards and on radio commercials. At school in the form of incentives provided by the school for good grades or as a prize for fund raising. At lunch when their neatly packaged lunch is now wrapped in brand names. It truly is everywhere. Home is not safe either. Their parents are using the latest technology, wearing the name brands they see on television and on and on.
Media companies are even advertising products to children such as movies that they aren't even old enough to watch. It is a bombardment of advertising to children with the strategic assistance of psychologists, highly educated manipulation experts. These companies are a busy group of people, their job is to coerce as many people, young or old, as they can to buy their products. According to the American Advertising Association people are exposed to over 2000 impressions or commercials on a daily basis. These come in the form of T-shirt logos, soda cans, billboards, household products and the list goes on and on.
Indirect evidence shows a connection between food advertising and childhood obesity. Industry reps say that is effects are not worth mentioning. Exposure between television food advertising consumption and childhood obesity are closely related.(3) Although not enough studies have been done on this subject to give a definite analysis, if you stand band and assess this situation, I think you too will see that the results are clear. A child parked in front of a television, exposed to an average of 80 minutes a day of food advertisements would be in a physically inactive state, burning few calories, and more than likely snacking or eating a meal. This child being shown a number of high calorie brand name foods they see on television, and then at the grocery store, and of course these kinds of commercials are broadcast during times marketers know children will be watching. The result would likely be an overweight child.(3)
Our Best Line of Defense
One of the most effective ways to combat these issues is to, as a parent, limit the exposure to our children. Send them outside to play and learn about nature. It can be done in a small yard or even a porch if set up correctly. Talk with them about nature and be a good role model. We have to be more productive than the media companies. We need to educate our kids about the advertising strategies of companies and display our own resistance to it.
I don't totally agree with a “Ban” on psychologists involvement in marketing to children. I think they can play an important role in protecting children against the companies. These psychologist can also take their responsibility to protect people of all ages against abuse from these companies. If we have an ethical psychologist appointed to the position of policing these companies, it can have a protective effect, as far as advertising goes. Whiton S. Paine, PhD at Stockton College in Pomona NJ fears that if we take psychologist out of marketing to children completely we will only have marketers ignorant to either the positive or negative effects advertising can have on a child.(4).
We as a people, not only in this country alone are trained from birth to have a desire for the “next best thing”. Whether it be a food product promising renewed health, a new car, or the newest in technology. It is a sickness suffered by humans in many parts of the world. Slowly separating us from nature, social behavior, basic human needs of interaction with nature and other people.
We text, listen to mp3 players, connect virtually with people we don't know in other places via the internet. This is braking down our basic social human instinct to socialize. This creates huge separations between the “Haves and Havenots”. It also isolates us and we are losing the ability to be the true social animals that we are. It is unfortunate that we have lost our connection to nature and each other largely in part do to media mind washing.
If there is a solution for this it will have to start with each individual realizing the power the media is given by us. We need to write to companies, turn off the television and send a clear message that we are done with the plates of shit they are serving us. I do recognize that marketing can be a very important tool, if used fairly and correctly. With out marketing we may miss out on important products that can benefit us. There has to be a line drawn in the sand as to how far these companies are allowed to go with their marketing strategies and how much we are exposed to. Until companies get our message and become less dollar happy and more consumer sensitive, we have to take responsibility in our own hands to protect and educate ourselves and our children.
The economic crash that has happened recently can also be a lesson for us. Purchasing things on credit in the form of big homes, new cars, the newest technology whether we need it or not, and toys and electronics used to keep our children busy so we can ignore them. Enabling us to us to separately immerse ourselves in our own technological toys and newest crazed dictated by our media. In turn we suffer the consequences of falling into debt. In severe cases we even begin to have these things we believe to be so important taken from us. This experience can be a great lesson for us. With these things gone and out of reach we just may have time to focus on nature, family and self reflection. We can learn to appreciate and nurture the basics in life. We will then benefit by the simple things that are such a basic need for our health and happiness.
(1) Abdulla, Samela, et al. The Use of Psychology to Exploit and Influence Children for
Commercial Purposes 1 November 2009 <http://lists.essential.org/commercial-alert/msg00022.html (2) Media Awareness Network “Special Issues for Young Children” 5 November 2009 <http://www.media-awareness.ca/english/parents/marketing/issues_kids_marketing.cfm (3)Unknown Author “By How Much Would Limiting TV Food Advertising Reduce Childhood Obesity?” European Journal of Public Health Vol 19, No 4 pp 365-369 (4) Clay, Rebecca A. “Advertising to Children, is it Ethical?” 18 November 2009 <http://www.apa.org/monitor/sep00/advertising.html