Advertising to children is an extremely controversial subject. Given that children don’t have the same cognitive skills as adults, they don’t assess in the same manner the need to buy a product or service like grown-ups. Should the advertising industry disseminate messages to an audience who cannot judge for itself and who doesn’t have the financial means to buy products and ask for money from adults instead? This article presents the main pros and cons against advertising to children – in the end, you are the one to decide what your opinion of this subject is.
Teaching children skills
Those who are in favour of advertising to children consider that being subjected to advertising messages encourages children to save money for their future purchases – or in other words, teaches them compromise and helps them improve their decision making skills. Those who are against would probably replicate that in fact advertising teaches children to be tomorrow’s consumers.
Enriching their lives
Advertising is considered to promote positive aspects to children, such as outdoor activities, arts, crafts, and hobbies. The role of advertising is also to inform, not only to promote products, and children should not be deprived of their right to be informed.
Another pro argument is that purchases initiated by children bring economic benefits. Brand loyalty is instilled at a young age and a lot of revenue is generated due to children-related purchases, thus bringing economic benefits to world states.
Preparing children for adulthood
Advertising lets children know what is happening in the world and makes them socially adequate and knowledgeable. Once again, the importance of providing information to children is one of the ideas supporting advertising targeted at this young category.
If we were to summarize the pro position, advertising to children should be allowed because promotional messages help to shape up a rich world for children and teach them more about life in general and products and services that can make their life better in particular.
Children are the most vulnerable target group
As stated at the beginning of this article, children lack the cognitive skills needed to make the right choices and assess the need for products and services correctly, which can cause bad habits and an unhealthy lifestyle.
Young children believe everything they hear and see
Children don’t realize the selling purpose of an advertisement and will not understand that advertising claims are emphasized with the purpose of making the sale. Instead, they will end up wanting an item badly because they consider every claim in an ad as it is and are not aware of the purpose behind it, which is to sell.
Researches in the field have shown that about half of children ads in the US are for candies, fast food, snacks, and sugary cereals. On the other hand, a third of all American children are overweight and obese, and the link between the two facts is obvious. Advertising has a negative impact on children’s lives not necessarily because each advertisement itself is bad, but because a large majority of promotional messages are about unhealthy products.
Children are less resilient than adults when it comes to promotional messages
If adults are equipped with a spam filter that allows them to ignore certain promotional messages, children are less conscious about the social and financial environment and consume information without processing it. Many children become familiar with certain brands at a young age and maintain their loyalty when they become adults, even if advertised products are not beneficial or necessary for their well being.
Aside from spending their pocket money or becoming fans of certain brands, children are also affected by advertising by influencing the buying habits of decision makers, such as parents and grandparents. Many experts in media and communication consider the practice of using children to determine adults to buy products and services unethical. This causes parent frustration because children can’t just drive to the store and buy stuff, but will work hard to convince their parents to but the items they have seen in advertisements. Furthermore, ads can harm child-parent relations, as children will nag and whine to get the desired item instead of focusing on positive aspects.
Preventing children from being inner-directed
Other-directed people, as opposed to inner-directed ones, are those who make decisions based on what other people will think about their actions. Instead of choosing what you really want and need, you will consider that you need items to be accepted and happy. Advertising can learn anyone, but especially children, who have an inferior judgment capability, that having and buying products will help them gain attention and become more popular – the path to materialism is almost certain for these children.
What would you do if you had the power to make a decision? Would you maintain advertising for children as it is? Would you make it more regulated? Or would you ban it whatsoever? The debate will probably never end.