Children and Advertising

Swapna Mirashi

Children are surrounded by stuff. And through continuous media messages and advertising they are enticed, encouraged and reminded to ‘want’, ‘want NOW’ and ‘want more’.

Theorists of advertising psychology have argued that if repeatedly exposed to trademarks and brand names, children could gradually and unconsciously acquire brand preferences that would last a lifetime.

No wonder then that advertisers are putting in lot of money and effort in advertising to children, even in product categories that have nothing to do with children. The impact it has on young minds is worrying.

All children can be influenced and persuaded by the advertisements they see. But younger children (below 8 years) are more trusting and they use advertisements to create lists of things they want and wish to own in the near future.

‘Advertising is a massive, multi-million dollar project that’s having an enormous impact on child development,’ says psychologist Allen D. Kanner. ‘Thanks to advertising, children have become convinced that they’re inferior if they don’t have an endless array of new products.’

In many countries, for these reasons, advertising to children is either restricted or banned. In the UK, Greece, Denmark and Belgium advertising to children is restricted. In QuebecSweden, Brazil and Norway advertising to children under the age of 12 is illegal.

‘Advertising is the art of convincing people to spend the money they don’t have for something they don’t need.’ – Will Rogers, Actor Humourist Philosopher

In the book Raising Consumers, Lisa Jacobson explores the evolution of child consumer through the history in America. The book is significant in understanding how the consumer culture and commercialization of childhood is taking place gradually, with all of us – the parents, teachers, schools, policy makers contributing to it, as much as the profit-seeking marketers and advertisers.

She says that dynamic interactions between the market and new family ideologies, including new notions of play, has helped to shape and legitimize children’s consumer culture.

In a modern consumer society dominated by wants, media and advertising, parents are not raising children. They are not raising scholars, champions, artists, thinkers any more. Parents are raising consumers!

 ‘Too much passive recreation (gives) children the impression that buying could substitute for actual life and experience.’ – Physical Education specialist Agnes Wayman.