Since the start of the 21st century, media has become a focal point in our lives. We can’t even go 30 minutes without wanting to watch TV or look at our phones. From a young age, we are constantly bombarded with advertisements. Companies must get the consumer’s attention. Children get sent into the battle between companies and their consumers. Over the last few years, whether or not companies should market to children has been a quiet debate. Marketing to children does more harm than good.
Children’s minds are still maturing, which keeps them from understanding what companies are doing to make their advertisements appealing.
According to the Raucher Foundation, 85 percent of the brain is developed by age 5. The additional 15 percent left of brain development inhibits a child’s ability to think critically about an advertisement they saw.
In 2004, The American Psychological Association supported a task force’s call to put more regulations on advertising to children 8 years and younger. The report stated that advertising does, in fact, affect children. According to that report and the American Psychological Association, after a child views one commercial, they can remember what the advertisement was about. Children are like sponges. They will remember what they see in an advertisement. There are advertisements that take huge issues facing children today like eating disorders, drugs, and stereotypes and turn them around to make children think they are cool, or trendy.
Advertisements have a profound effect on children and it can lead to problematic behaviors later in their childhood. One in 5 teens in the United States has a serious mental disorder. According to Live Science, the prevalence of severe emotional and behavior disorders is even higher than asthma or diabetes. Advertisements contribute to this.
People in favor of marketing to children argue that companies need to take advantage of our free enterprise economy. These people argue that companies need to be able to market to children in order to make enough money. When children watch T.V. and see commercials, they pester their parents into buying the product, and according to Michele Norris with ABC News, children influence how their parents spend their money. They bring in over $600 billion in sales. These people view children as huge money makers for their business. It would be strange to market a Littlest Pet Shop set to a 50-year-old male. In addition to that, they argue that children see all kinds of inappropriate things throughout their childhood; it is not just from advertisements. Children get thrown into the crossfire of other children’s beliefs every day when they leave for school. They will inevitably be exposed to something inappropriate for their age. Yes, these things can make children grow up too fast, but it is just exposing them to the world. By exposing them to the world while they are young, children are prepared for life once they leave home.
In the instance of marketing to children, the risks outweigh the benefits. Companies need to be able to make money, but they have a largely profitable demographic- adults. According to Dr. Liva Montagne, Editorial Research Manager for MarketingSherpa, 95 percent of adults aged 18-34 use social media. That is a huge group of people that companies can market to.
Unfortunately, children are constantly exposed to things parents can only fear. But children are hurried into adulthood, causing detrimental effects. According to Dr. Gail Gross, a nationally recognized Psychologist, pediatricians are finding more children with stress-related diseases, such as ulcers by the age of 7. Children are already forced to grow up. Why should companies be able to market to them, only adding more stress to their lives?
A child’s mind is simple. Because of that, they are easily influenced by others. Advertisements promote problematic behaviors, instant gratification, and stress, causing children to be affected on a large scale.
Children should have the freedom to be children.