How do we as parents cope with commercial pressures on children? How can we manage marketing pressures and manipulation, and protect our children from persuasion and ourselves from being pestered?
It's almost impossible to escape the relentless stream of advertising and marketing to children these days. Children (and their parents) are the target of marketing pressures everywhere they go. Your children are not even safe in their own home,and especially not in the local supermarket or fast food outlet.
There is a worldwide rise in community concern about the intrusion of commercialism into childhood. The pairing of children's media with merchandise is increasing and there are increasing pressures for children to consume, and to define themselves on materialistic grounds.
Children are exposed to large volumes of advertising for toys, junk food, soft drinks and confectionery, sexualised clothing, games and movies that are violent. Exposure includes:
And all this before they reach three years of age!
Now, apart from the pestering to buy stuff, does this matter? Isn't advertisingjust another way to give children information about products of interest to them?
Well, no! Advertising can cause harm because it:
Advertisers use all manner of manipulation to get your children to buy. They use:
Advertisers try to engage children, not just for their own pocket money, but to get their support for family purchases (from breakfast cereals to the new car),and to give them a warm and fuzzy feeling towards companies, so they'll be lifelong customers.
As parents, we need to know that coping with advertising is a skill that most under-sevens do not have.
Research tells us that:
Advertising to young children is not only exploitative and harmful, but basicallyan unfair practice.
Let's look at some more facts and figures about ads.
Most of these ads are likely to be for:
A similar picture emerges with Internet sites. Many sites:
Movies, fast food outlets and supermarkets often promote products using:
Children's magazines are:
Continually give the message to your child that you love them as they are. Do all you can to boost your child's self-esteem.
Learn about ads yourself and point out the tricks as you watch them with your child. Use simple phrases like 'telling fibs' or 'tricking' for very young children.
Keep young children out of the firing line, avoid ads.
Choose non-commercial media, like the ABC or children's DVDs and videos.
Compare products/ toys advertised on TV with the real thing when shopping.
Use reviews of websites to help choose those with low commercial content. See http://www.youngmedia.org.au/mediachildren/07_06_web_sites_reviews.htm which includes a link to an excellent report Like Taking Candy from a Baby by the US group Consumer Reports WebWatch.
Visit the Young Media Australia website (www.youngmedia.org.au) for more information about dealing with ads, including links to international groups that work in this area.
Visit the US site Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood (CCFC) (http://www.commercialexploitation.org) or pick up some tips about 'Raising Media Savvy Kids' from the Action Coalition for Media Education (ACME) (http://www.acmecoalition.org/raising_media_savvy_kids ).
For more detailed information about all of the information in this article, see YMA Fact Sheets, particularly those about advertising. From the YMA home page (www.youngmedia.org.au) go to the section Information about Media and Children / Effects of Advertising. Or for very detailed information about the impact of food ads and what to do about them, click on the button Healthy Viewing for Healthy Eating.
Linn S (2004) Consuming Kids: the hostile takeover of childhood (The New Press: New York).
McNeal J U (1992) Kids as Customers: A Handbook of Marketing to Children (Lexington Books: New York).
(This book provides an insight into what the advertising industry thinks about children as a market).
Roper S & Shah B:Vulnerable consumers: the social impact of branding onchildren Equal Opportunities International Vol 26, No. 7, 2007, pp712-728.
Thomas SG (2007) Buy, Buy Baby: How Consumer Culture Manipulates Parents and HarmsYoung Minds (Houghton, Mifflin Company: New York).
Schor JB (2004) Born to Buy: The Commercialized Child and the New Consumer Culture (Scribner: US).
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