Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Children and Advertising: Do We Need Stricter Laws


Mr A I think that there must be a very strict code governing advertising especially where the target audience is children. What is used as the appeal and the value that is projected may not be good. Children are fast learners and they can be influenced pretty easily and when you get them young, the impressions may stay for life. When an advertisement projects a certain idea, it does not take much to get embedded in the psyche of the child. Compared to it, real virtues are not necessarily attractive and may take a lot of time to be understood and adopted in true sense. In today’s time, materialism is at an all time high and when success, attractiveness, pleasing personality and achievement are all associated with use of products, it is pushing children into a vortex of correlating these with products —something that can be bought off the shelf and not striven for! The children must be protected from falling into the trap of shallowness and should definitely be prevented from being the targets of a consumerist culture.

Miss B I think quite the contrary actually, so let me play the devils advocate. I think that media is actually the window to the world. It makes us aware of what developments are happening and what newer choices we have before us. This applies equally well to the products and services that are constantly undergoing upgrades and innovations. I do not think that anyone would dispute the utility and benefits these things bring to our life. There is no harm in knowing what is available on the platter. People should be more concerned with arriving at ways to make more intelligent choices. If there is a strict code governing advertising, it will become very difficult for the manufacturers and producers to generate awareness about their products.

Mr C Well, I am quite certain that the codes governing advertising related to children have to be strict. Advertising may be good, may reflect on the good values, good appeal and may set a good example, but may not be bringing out real information about the product it is describing. There has to be greater care taken when the target is children. Children idolize certain characters, succumb to some simple appeals and are naïve about the mechanism of a sales drive. It would be unfair to use Mickey Mouse or Barbie to sell a sub-standard item. Many advertisements being directed towards children are that of food. Many of these food advertisements that children are being exposed to are products that are of low nutritional value. Likewise, there are biscuit/chips/snack manufacturers who do not clarify about the ingredients. It is less known but trans-fat and MSG should not be a part of any food item being publicized as fit for kids. The advertisers may use the pitch of the food item being healthy and nutritious but it may not be true at all. It is only now that some manufacturers have started clarifying about the ingredients used. Likewise misinformation and wrong facts are reported. If one has a mechanism of checks in place, it is unlikely that people will be taken in by false promises or wrong facts.

Miss D I disagree. It is the parents who are in charge of making decisions and subsequently making purchases in the household. I do believe that adults are intelligent and discerning individuals who make choices after a stringent mental process, weighing in products and services on the several mental parameters that are important. I am also quite convinced that the parents do take care to monitor what their children are watching. If the children are continually taught how to look at things in the proper light, they will be able to see through the façades and be able to distinguish between the really good and the posers. I really don’t think that imposing strict guideline will be of any help. Rather, awareness and education of people is what goes a long way in affecting real changes in perception.

Mr A Advertising targeting children has long been a very successful way to build a solid consumer base in order to secure a lifetime of consumer purchasing. It may sound heartless, but the fact is it works. Many children are often the target for most advertisers, because they know if they hound at their parents enough they will give in and buy their product, and everyone will be happy. Some advertisers try to portray more positive items to children, but many children are also overcome with the negative ways of advertising. Food, clothing, toys are just a few of the many types of advertisements being influenced upon children daily. According to James McNeal, the total ad-spend directed at the US children has crossed $15 billion—a 150 times jump from what it was about two decades ago. And kids are responding, by becoming shoppers earlier than their parents did.

Miss B It is quite strange that we get proactive about introducing bans on issues that are less relevant than the bigger concerns that plague our society. Anyhow, the point that I feel is relevant over here is that parents may get emotionally blackmailed by the children, but parents are also limited by certain constraints like finances. When it comes to the major buying no amount of pressure will work. I suppose any parent will know that a cola and burger is not an acceptable meal and stands low on nutritional values and yet, if they fall into the trap of children’s demands, they are doing themselves and their children disfavour. And yes, even if it is minor buying, parents have to be more intelligent. I feel that in the process of upbringing, parents underestimate the understanding of children and do not realise that if they really try reasoning and explaining with complete honesty children are likely to understand and take on a similar approach in their thinking as well.

Mr C These days children are increasingly spending time in front of the television, that acts as a child minder for parents. As a consequence, children who are simply receivers of information and have sundry messages bombarded their way are taking in all of it without any questions asked. Lack of adult interpretation is a concern because young children tend to accept advertisements as fair, accurate, balanced and truthful. What is also alarming is that commercials also often use psychological research to make their messages more powerful. For example, they draw from developmental psychology principles to build campaigns that persuade children to nag their parents to buy it. Television advertisements especially affect young children’s unhealthy food consumption. The issue of concern here then becomes that even though the child may not be able to make the purchases, there is a tremendous increase in the purchase request, pointing to a very disturbing trend towards materialism.

Miss D Well, there is a very disturbing trend on the rise, which is about the impact of advertising on children. As fallout, there is the increase in number of studies commissioned to find out what works with children. Whereas there is need felt to have stricter norms and laws governing advertisements targeted at children, there are some other studies that have found that such response has nothing to do with advertising per se. Television advertising has little influence on children’s real desire for consumer products and cannot provoke irresistible pester power against parents. After analyzing 20 international studies on children as consumers, Adrian Furnham, professor of psychology at University College, London, found that there was no evidence to support calls for stricter controls on the advertising of sweets, toys, music and other goods aimed at children. According to him, it is not advertising that harms children, but irresponsible parenting. Parents have nothing to fear from advertising. Children are far more sophisticated consumers than popularly imagined. The findings may surprise parents who have been persistently badgered by children to buy products which they have seen promoted in huge budget advertising campaigns. I think that even as we call for responsible and ethical advertising, we also have to attribute the mindset of the current generation of parents who either do not have the time or are not discerning enough to give their children a perspective about how the world around them should be understood.
Post a Comment