Jul 29, 2017

Why Children’s Advertising on TV Should Be Banned

Children’s influence on families purchase decisions can reach 80% (“Why Advertising” 38). For this reason, in the modern capitalist society, kids are a very significant part of the commercial market. Targeting their messages for children, companies can turn them into promoters of their product or service for the parents. Thus, the concept of children’s advertising is not only ads of products for kids; it includes all kinds of messages directed to persuade children, even if an adult product like a car or a house, for example.

As a controversial topic, it is treated differently around the world. Some countries have more restrictive regulations while others are more liberal rules. For example, in Brazil, Quebec and Norway advertising for children are totally forbidden. On the other hand, Italy and U.K have partially prohibited, so marketers need to follow some rules for ads production and exhibition. Further, in Australia and U.S, there is a self-regulated policy, which means that companies can make agreements with the government to exhibit their ads on TV.

    Although the issue is treated differently around the world, the arguments of both sides in this conflict seem to be the same everywhere. The clash manifests between parents and advertisers because, while parents want a “commercial-free” environment to raise their children (Buckingham 5), advertisers argue that parents want the ban on ads on TV because they are too lazy to teach their kids about how to respond to persuasive messages.

Further, most advertising companies claim that children’s TV ads are not a novelty, many generations have grown up watching it, and nothing happened. They also say that the restriction or ban will badly affect the sector’s economy and innovation and that the problem is that parents don't know how to educate their little ones about critical thinking and consumerism. However, these arguments are not effective in order to defend advertisers side in the conflict.

     One of the most common arguments that advertising defenders have is that advertising for children on TV is not a novelty. During at least 50 years, many generations have grown up amid intense advertising on TV and we don't have any evidence that this has caused big problems for the society. However, it is not appropriate extent a social concept like this for a long period of time since society suffers a lot of changes over the years.

   The world changes in different perspectives over the years. Family, media, technology, and economy are not the same that they were decades ago, and this shift really affects the relationship between children and TV. First of all, we can see a progressive trend in the average number of ads that children see per year. In 1970’s this number was 20,000 commercials per year. Now, this number doubled and kids often watch 40,000 in a year (Singer, Singer 376). This happened because the environment around TV has changed.

    Family’s structure changes over the years. The families today are smaller, so children have to look for a more lonely way of entertainment, which often times is the TV. Moreover, we see in the modern society a trend of women working outside. So, mothers don’t stay at home with the child how used to do in the past. Besides this, the violence makes parent afraid of allowing their kids to play in outside. As you can see, all these social changes on the families over the years collaborate for a context where children watch more TV than ever.

     Further, the evolution of technology allows new techniques in the media environment that greatly impacts on how advertising reaches the public (Kunkel et al.). The TV today is totally different from the TV in the 80’s. For example, on that time TV didn't have multi channels that it has currently (broadcast networks, independent stations, and cable networks). Moreover, the society has changed in a commercial market perspective. Nowadays, the advertising professionals have increased knowledge about children’s psychology and create a range of new techniques for reach this audience. Consequently, now companies have easier and cheaper means to create products and services for kids.

     Considering this innovation context, another very significant argument of children’s ads supporters is that ban the TV’s commercials will badly affect the sector’s economy and, consequently, decrease the improvement and innovative actions on children's products and services. They claim that companies will not be willing to spend money creating new products or services if they will not be able to advertise it to their audience. However, the solution for this issue is simply to change the target of the ads. This way, we can create an environment that allows children to grow better and minimize the economic effects of the ban for the sector since companies will still have an audience for whom present their innovations.

     In other words, the key idea is not to cease this kind of commercials but directed for those who have the money and the legal right of purchasing. Why target kids if they don't have legal ability to perform civil life actions (work or buy a car, for instance)? Talking directly with kid’s ads disrupts the old advice “Do not speak to strangers!” (“Why Advertising” 39). These messages put the parent's authority away and direct their powerful messages straight to kids without any permission.

   Thus, companies should direct their commercial messages for parents or guardians, because they have the money, and know what is better for their kids. Therefore, with ads directed at adults, companies don't need to stop their innovation on the field. They just need to have excellent products to convince parents to present them for their children. Indeed, this action would reduce some companies profit, since is much easier convince children than adults, however, it will be worthwhile because will create a better environment for children to grow.

     Finally, the third and most common argument of advertisers is that through advertising on TV, parents can teach their children about critical thinking, patience, and life’s priorities. Therefore, parents that want the ban on ads are tired of saying “no!” exhaustively when their kids ask for the products they see on TV. However, although parents have their role in this issue, they cannot compete against TV ads.

     Even if parents teach their children about persuasive contents and critical analysis, kids don't have a psychological maturity developed to resist to this attractive and frequent messages. Only about 12 years of age, children have completely developed critical thinking (“Why Advertising” 4). Thus, under this age, they don't discern, for example, true and lie or differ entertainment content of sales messages (Singer, Singer 383).

   Moreover, even if parents teach their children about critical judgment, they don't have maturity enough to be argumentative while watch their favorite cartoon and a cool commercial is repeatedly displayed. Seeing that is clear to understand that to ban ads is a way to empower parents since it eliminates the influence of ads in families dialogue. Advertisers and parents should assume mutual responsibility (“Advertising to Children”).

      Above all, this discussion is not only about the money that kids make their parents spend with products that they see on TV. There are some more important aspects at stake here. When kids are convinced to buy a product and ask for it, they pay more than just dollars and cents. They pay for all the brainwashing that they suffered when they are helplessly watching TV. “[...] They pay with their minds, hearts, bodies. They pay in time, learning, language, thinking, creation, and maturing. These are the processes and values that shrivel in ad-saturated environments.” (Fox, Gerbner 145).

    Ultimately, the advertisers and parents should stop blaming each other and assume mutual responsibility in this conflict, because they both have roles with children. Moreover, the topic should be brought to a wide discussion on society in order to mobilize more people around the idea of the ban. This is a very relevant topic for discussion because makes people think about what is really more valuable for the society: sell more disposable things and make more money, or raise better and healthy citizens for the future?

Works Cited

"Advertising to Children." Advertising to Children. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 June 2016. Buckingham, David. The Material Child: Growing up in Consumer Culture. Cambridge: Polity, 2011. Print.

Fox, Roy F., and George Gerbner. Harvesting Minds: How TV Commercials Control Kids. Westport, CT: Praeger, 1996. Print.

Singer, Dorothy G., and Jerome L. Singer. Handbook of Children and the Media. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2001. Print.

Kunkel, Dale, Brian Wilcox, Joanne Cantor, Edward Palmer, Susan Linn, and Peter Dowrick.
Report of the APA Task Force on Advertising and Children. Rep. SFU. APA, 20 Feb. 2004. Web. 27 June 2016.

Kunkel, Dale, and Walter Gantz. "Children's Television Advertising in the Multichannel
Environment." Communication Journal of Communication 42.3 (1992): 134-52. Web.

“Why Advertising Is Bad for Children”. N.p.: Alana Institute, n.d. www.criancaeconsumo.org.br. Web. 26 June 2016.


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