Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood recently revamped its website. One of the new features includes a fact sheet that provides the following information regarding modern marketing aimed at children (with citations to primary sources):
- Marketing directly to children is a factor in the childhood obesity epidemic.
- Marketing also encourages eating disorders, precocious sexuality, youth violence and family stress and contributes to children’s diminished capability to play creatively.
- As young children are developing their gender identities, they are flooded with ads for products promoting sexualized stereotypes. There are 40,000 Disney Princess items on the market today.
- This generation of children is the most brand-conscious ever. Teens between 13 and 17 have 145 conversations about brands per week, about twice as many as adults.
- Children ages 2-11 see more than 25,000 advertisements a year on TV alone, a figure that does not include product placement. They are also targeted with advertising on the Internet, cell phones, mp3 players, video games, school buses, and in school.
- Almost every major media program for children has a line of licensed merchandise including food, toys, clothing, and accessories.
- Until the age of about 8 children do not understand advertising’s persuasive intent.
I’ve often written about these issues before (see the list of posts here). The problem is not the enormous amount of money corporations are spending on their commercials. Rather, it’s about the effect of those commercials on young minds. In my opinion, modern advertising directed toward children is part of the thorough education the children are receiving in the need to be hyper-acquisitive. Through these incessant messages about the need to buy, modern American children learn that A) they “need” many things they don’t need; B) children who have expensive toys are socially superior to those that don’t; C) “playing” is about having single-purpose toys that stifle creativity; D) they need expensive toys to be happy; E) having the right toy is more important than developing meaningful friendships; F) being sexy in a shallow and glitzy way is important even at a young age.
Truly, children would be much better off to never view any commercial advertising. There is absolutely nothing good that comes of it, and there are many potential dangers.
It is also my belief that the amount and intensity of these advertising messages are an important part of what is turning children into acquisitive adults with limited creativity. I suspect that the education that Americans have been getting from advertisers is driving the perceived need of so many Americans to buy things they can’t afford (the average American family now saves a NEGATIVE one percent of its income each year). I also wonder whether this commercial-driven “need to acquire” is responsible for people buying so much that they work too many hours at high stress jobs, thereby failing to tend to the things that they constantly claim are the “most important” things in their lives (children, marriage, and community-building).
In June, I had the opportunity to interview Josh Golin of CCFC about these issues. It was a lively interview and Josh is a terrific spokesperson for these viewpoints. If you haven’t seen this interview yet, I highly recommend it.
For previous DI posts regarding advertising, consumerism and over-acquisitiveness, see the extensive list at the bottom of this post.