Over the years, parents and the society have been at the forefront in protecting children from potential harm (Jordan and Daniel 7). They ensure every stakeholder including teachers and medics attending to their welfare are vetted thoroughly to guarantee them appropriate education and development. All concerned stakeholders involved in child development have done their level best to reduce and ultimately prevent negative influence that might affect their normal development (Jordan and Daniel 7). However, most researchers on child development have single out advertisements whether print, audio, or digital as the most unfettered source of information that often targets children (Veerkumar and Neerja 5). The consequences of these ads on children have been severe, and without due regulation of its explicit content, adult development of children has been compromised significantly. In this paper, I will discuss the reasons why these advertisements should not be allowed to target children.
The use of advertisements to market products and services is not a recent human endeavor; however, as revealed by archaeologists advertisements were used as early as during ancient Rome and Pompeii (Veerkumar and Neerja 5). At this period, advertisements were done on a small scale but with the invention of different mass media such as television, printing, and radio advertising began an industry in itself. Before the advent of both television and radio, concerns about advertising targeting young children had been raised as a major threat to their development. As early as 1874, the British Parliament enacted some legislation intended to protect children from advertisers who wanted to induce them to purchase their products (Veerkumar and Neerja 5).
The major aim of advertisers is to target as many consumers as possible in the market. They can use different media such as television, radio, billboards, and posters and online platforms to present their ads to the public (Singer and Jerome 8). So long as their brand gain popularity and their profit increase advertisers do not put into consideration the potential negative impact these ads could cause on young children, especially those in childhood and teenage stages. With this unfettered access of information, advertisers have been allowed to shape and contribute to the development of young children (Veerkumar and Neerja 15). This information largely has influenced the perspective of young children. At this early stage of development, children have not yet developed a sense of their own identity or master the skills of how to handle money; therefore, they are easily encouraged to associate self-worth and status with materials such as wealth and fame for validation. Children are regarded as vulnerable to advertising because these commercial messages produce many of the media effects intended by advertiser agents, from attention and recognition to changes in attitudes and behavior (Holmberg 29).
The adverts cause them to become legions of little consumers instead of being prepared to become responsible adults who will value and treat themselves for what they contribute to the society in which they live. The consistent display of these ads teaches and nurtures the values of the consumer society right from the early stage of child development. By the time they become adults, the acceptable moral values will apparently be difficult to take root.
Advertisers often succeed to convince young children to remember and develop a desire to acquire advertised products and services. As indicated by research studies on effects of advertisements on children, children are most affected, and most of them prefer to choose products or content displayed in the ads to which they have constantly been exposed (Singer and Jerome 7). With as little as a single ads exposure, the preference of a product is developed and gets strengthened with repeated exposures. The conditioned preferences of products as a result of repeated ads exposure affects children purchase requests which in turn affect the parents purchasing decisions. Media and communication research seems to converge in stating that commercials have a stronger effect on younger children, and that advertising media effects such as purchase requests for advertised products decline as children grow older (Holmberg 30).
However, an established product preference may not be negative provided the product or service is appropriate for their development, and it is what the parents require their children to have, there are instances where ads displayed or presented may result in potential harm (Veerkumar and Neerja 5). As shown in different children research studies, the advertisement had brought about parent-child conflicts that commonly take place when parents declined to honor their childrens product purchase requests that were advertised (Veerkumar and Neerja 5).
This effect may have a cumulative negative impact on the eating habits of children. Since most ads targeting children usually incorporates snacks, candy, and fast foods, children exposed to these ads are more than likely to increase consumption of these products (Singer and Jerome 8). If consumed moderately, non-nutritious foods may not be harmful; however, if these products are consumed in excess without including healthier food, children are exposed to increased risks of obesity and poor health. This association has been proved in different studies that heightened advertising of non-nutritious foods increases in equal measure the rates of childhood obesity.
Several studies have also proved that there is an association between children seeing alcohol and tobacco ads and development of preferential attitudes towards consumption of such products. Since children have not yet known their effects, they find such ads attractive and this makes them have an increased awareness about these products and consequently develop positive attitudes toward them (Veerkumar and Neerja 5). Most of these products, which usually have drug-related content, have been found to be featured in publications and programming frequently exposed to minors and the assessment of this research shows that these advertisements contribute to youth smoking and drinking.
Most of the content directed to children is explicit content, and it is often disheartening for parents to see these adverts on television alongside their children (Holmberg 29). They normally target both genders, and they display ads almost in a transparent manner to lure and convince customers. This explicit information is detrimental to the development of children who can be influenced at an early age to engage in illicit sexual interactions that can lead to premature pregnancies and spread of diseases (Hallmann 24). Through online platforms, children have presented with inappropriate games and toys that a company exploits because children are quite naive and vulnerable. Children thus become an agent of marketers who take advantage of their instant need to own products they see on ads. Therefore, the companies to purchase its products do not only exploit children, but children are exposed in the end to negative consequences that may easily interfere with normal behavioral development.
With increasing exposure to ads especially through online advertising, children healthy growth and development, if not properly guided, will not be realized. The ads should be banned, and appropriate measures should be put in place to prevent undue exposure of minor to inappropriate content. Several scholars, for example, Jonathan Kent, have called for a complete ban on all advertising targeted at children below the age of eleven years.
According to Kent, when children are young their brains and personalities are still underdeveloped which makes them more susceptible to advertising (Veerkumar and Neerja 5). For instance, they do not have a mature mental toolset older people possess to filter out things that are wrong, and this increases their vulnerability to advertising. Advertisers always in a bid to market their products do not act in the best interests of consumers but instead they act in the best interest of the people and organizations who need to advertise their products or services (Donovan12) In marketing dimension, this is a right thing to do for this is what advertisers are paid to do. However, this unfettered access to information also means that young children are left at the sympathy of advertisers who have no particular interest in their well-being, but only they are focused on selling their clients merchandise and making profit.
Therefore, based on these several negative consequences, advertisements should be banned and should not be allowed to target children. Appropriate regulation must be put in place to ensure ads are monitored to prevent the potential display of content that contains explicit content. In addition, parents should play a leading role in ensuring they offer proper guidance to their children to learn what to watch and how to use online platforms that often contain numerous advertisements.
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New York : Oxford University Press, 2014.
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Made for Children. Hamburg: Anchor Academic Publishing, 2015
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