We Must Protect Children From Targeted Advertisements

By Griffin Ruebner, Print Sports Editor

// “Silly rabbit! Trix are for kids!” 

   I can’t count the number of times I viewed this silly advertisement and others just like it during my cartoon-watching days. As I sat on the couch, my eyes locked on the rabbit waltzing around the screen, clutching his brightly colored, sugar-filled flavor bombs, I remember wanting nothing more than to taste just one spoonful. Herein lies the dangers of advertisements directed towards children.

   Oftentimes, advertisements serve as a life guide to young people who do not yet understand how money works or how good choices are made. A hilarious soundtrack or goofy animation can change the opinions of kids and hook them to products in an instant.

   It is important to recognize that while many children view advertisements on television shows, advertisements can now be slipped into video games or online resources without being blatantly obvious. This is known as stealth advertising, and it is just as dangerous as television commercials.

   The reason children, especially very young kids, are so susceptible to advertising schemes is because their brains are wired differently than adults. Psychologist Sandra Calvert published an essay called “Children as Consumers: Advertising and Marketing” in which she explained that children under the age of 8 lack the cognitive skills to understand the true intent of advertisements.

   Advertisers spend approximately 12 billion dollars yearly to reach the youth market and children are exposed to over 40,000 commercials each year, according to the American Physiological Association (APA). In the same paper, the APA wrote that a variety of studies found that children could recall content from advertisements that they watched, and they would prefer products they had seen in these advertisements even if they only saw the advertisement one time. These preferences affect children’s purchase requests to their parents.

   Kids asking their parents for commercially advertised items can cause issues in the household. Family conflicts can often occur when a child wants some sort of “as seen on TV” product and begs their parents to purchase it for them, causing fighting.

   Another negative impact of the everyday commercials targeted towards children is how many of them promote poor eating habits. Similar to the aforementioned Trix cereal, there are many flashy and fun advertisements for candy, fast food, and soda. These commercials clearly try to hook the youth market that sees the colors and laughs at the crazy sound effects and then wants to eat the excitingly portrayed unhealthy snacks.

   Some companies market dangerous items to children that could damage their lives forever. Juul Labs, a company that sells electronic cigarettes and vape pods, purchased ad space on youth-focused websites like Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, and even educational sites for middle school students, per the New York Times. 

   Furthermore, Juul offered flavored e-juice pods like “cotton candy” to entice children into vaping, and then subsequently hooking them.

   Vaping can harm the development of the adolescent brain and is addictive, according to the Center for Disease Control, and it can be a pathway to other drugs. Under no circumstance should something this detrimental to the health and well-being of children be directly advertised to them.

   Large corporations in the U.S. are using advertisements to profit off of vulnerable kids with no regard to the damage they are doing to their lives. Other countries have stepped up and passed legislation to prevent children from falling prey to these corporate schemes.

   In 1991, Sweden passed a law banning television advertising aimed at children under the age of 12. Sweden has also banned all advertisements attempting to persuade children to purchase or persuade their parents to purchase a marketed item.

   If America could follow suit and prevent targeted advertisements from reaching kids, parents wouldn’t have to worry about their children being corrupted by deceptive commercials, and no harm would be done to the nation.

One Reply to “We Must Protect Children From Targeted Advertisements”

  1. Well meaning article, but a clear violation of freedom of speech. We cannot try to control every aspect of our lives without seeing a deterioration in our value system and freedoms. We need to shy away from big government. It is damaging.

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