TV Advertising and its effect on children

Group 14


Abigail Snyder Group leader, How are you supposed to Choose Good Children’s Toys?

Kathryn Snodgrass Negative Advertising and its effect on children

Michael Shannon Why Do We Advertise to Children?

Jon Smith Why Do We Advertise to Children?

Tai Scelfo Media Violence Affects Children

David Simons Editor, introduction,conclusion

David Shellaberger Only Good Things Happen When You Advertise to Kids.


Children and TV Advertising


            Today’s children are unique in many ways from previous generations, but perhaps the most influencing on our young children today is Television advertisements. "In 1997, the nation’s estimated 34 million children age 12 and under will have spent or influenced spending of a record $500 billion" (Horovitz 1997). There is obviously a great deal of interest in this subject, many books have been written, and many studies and reports done on the effects of TV advertising on children. In the following paragraphs we will look at some of the reasons why we advertise to children, some different positive and negative effects of TV advertisement on children, how people can cut through the hype of TV ads and pick good things for their children.          


Why Do We Advertise to Children?


            Today, everywhere we go we see some type of advertising. A sale at the supermarket or a billboard for a radio station, are two of the many forms of advertisement. Currently, advertisements that target children are very controversial.

Marketers choose children because they can easily lure them in. Advertisers spent $105.97 billion in 1980. This number more than doubled in 2001 when it reached $230 billion (Laws, 2003). In the year 2000, the Census reported 105 million househ0olds in America, meaning advertisers spend an average of $2,190 on one household per year. Advertisers spend this much money because of television. The average child sees an estimate of more than 20,000 commercials every year - that works out to at least 55 commercials per day (Laws, 2003). Children will insist their parents purchase what they see or hear on television. In the 1960's, children had an influence on about $5 billion of their parent’s purchases. That figure increased to $50 billion in 1984 and tripled to $188 billion in 1997. James McNeal, a kids marketing expert, estimates children twelve and under will influence $500 billion of family purchases by the year 2000 (Laws, 2003).

Children don't just have their parents buy their toys, but they make purchases of their own. Children's spending has roughly doubled every ten years for the past three decades, and has tripled in the 1990's. Kids ages 4 to 12 spent $2.2 billion in 1968 and $4.2 billion in 1984. By 1994, the figure climbed to $17.1 billion and by 2002, their spending exceeded $40 billion. Kids direct buying power is expected to exceed $51.8 billion by 2006 (Laws, 2003).  No matter how you look at it, advertisers choose children because they are the most easily influenced and will spend their money if they find something interesting. 


Only Good Things Happen When You Advertise to Kids.

            There are not many people in the world today that would disagree with the fact that children are our future. Children are the ones that must carry on family traditions, continue to build and develop new public projects, and continue to learn and expand the knowledge of the human race. With that said it is important to understand that children are also future consumers. They are the engines that will drive the economy for the next generation, for advertisers the future is now. Advertising to children has long been a very successful way to build a solid consumer base that will win the minds of children in order to secure a lifetime of consumer purchasing. It may sound heartless but the fact is it works, and advertising to children is big business. According to the article “Kids Upfront Outlook is Grim” by Wayne Friedman and David Goetzl, “Companies spent about $800 million last year advertising on network, syndication, cable and local shows targeting kids aged 2 to 14.” Eight hundred million is a lot of money, and advertisers want to see a return on that kind of investment. According to Karen J. Pine and Avril Nash in the article “Dear Santa: The Effects of Television Advertising on Young Children,” people must “understand that the advertiser’s motive is to sell a product.” It is easy to see how directly advertising to children can generate huge profits for companies, there by helping our economy. According to Marci McDonald and Marianne Lavelle authors of the article, “Call it Kid-Fluence,” James McNeal, a retired professor from Texas A&M University said, “children ages 4 to 12 last year spent $29 billion of their own money—from allowances, baby-sitting fees, and handouts their parents doled out on trips to the mall.” Now, it doesn’t take an economist to figure out that $29 billion in revenue on an advertising investment of $800 million equals big profits for manufactures of children’s products. Don’t think that it’s just America that benefits from children’s advertising, it is a global business strategy, the European Union estimates to generate between $620 to $930 million a year in revenue from marketing products to children. However, advertising to children does not only bring in funds from the children but more importantly, it generates what experts call “The Nag Factor.” The “Nag Factor” is when a child sees an ad for a product then cries and complains to a parent until the parent purchases the item. According to the article “Temptation-free Television for Children?” by Pascaline Dumont, Over half of all families have reported to agree with a child’s request just to avoid an argument. McNeal emphasizes the “Nag Factor” when he claims that, “2 to 12 year olds had an indirect impact on another $320 billion of household purchases. Over the last five years, there’s been a substantial increase in the amount of influence kids have on durable goods—cars, boats, big-ticket items. The power in the household is being ceded to the children.” John Geraci, vice president of youth research at Harris Interactive, agrees with McNeal and the importance of children’s influence when he states that a child’s spending is not near as economically lucrative as their influence over the households spending habits. However, according to Dumont, many American psychologists criticize advertising methods, claiming they border on mind control. Well, good for them! What better way to ensure a life long, loyal costumer than to brainwash a child into a trained purchasing machine. According to the U.S. Consumers Union each child in America is exposed to 30,000 commercials a year. That’s a lot of brainwashing power and a lot of cash flow generated by these little future consumers. A good example of the buying power of children’s influence is that Gateway and Nickelodeon have made a deal to produce “Rugrats and Blue’s Clues computers that will be intended for children but marketed to children and parents. This is a potential huge money maker, as kids these days are much more computer literate than their parents. According to McDonald and Lavelle, “In today’s families, many kids also serve as chief technology officers. When it comes to computers and other electronic purchases, even 7-year-olds may boast more expertise than Mom or Pop. A 1999 survey by Yankelovich found that 60 percent of parents don’t shop for technology without consulting their kids.” That’s just another reminder of the tremendous positive effects of advertising to children.

            The children are our future and an important part of the present as well. We must understand the importance of a child’s role in today’s world and today’s economy. Advertising to children has long been a part of the free market form of society and must be embraced as another part of a complex economic engine that runs day and night to provide a better life style for us all. Advertising to children generates jobs, injects money into the economy, and instills in children at a young age the importance of the freedom of choice. It also develops a child’s ability to understand the value of a dollar and teaches them that individuals can achieve anything if they are willing to pay the price.


Negative Advertising and its effect on children

             Advertising is everywhere you look, whether it is in the newspaper you pick up daily or on that billboard you see while driving down the highway. Some people may say that they are not in fact influenced by the advertising that is thrown at them each day, and that they do not fall into it, but everyone does. 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 overcome with the negative ways of advertising. With television being the most popular way to advertise to young ones, the average American child may view as many as 40,000 television commercials every year (Strasburger, 2001). Schools are now even advertising to children without them being aware that they are actually doing it. Food, clothing, toys are just a few of the many types of advertisements being influenced upon children daily. 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. McDonalds spends roughly $570 million a year on advertising (McNeal 2001). Everyone knows that McDonalds is not a good place to find much nutritional value, and in turn will only lead to obesity in children. Now in many schools students are being rewarded coupons for Pizza Hut, and McDonalds for doing a good job in school. Why not reward these children with money towards furthering their education? Many educational posters in schools are advertising candy to children, when it will only rot their teeth and make them gain weight. Along with food advertisements many young children are even being shown cigarette advertisements which promote many young people smoking and enjoying themselves. Well when a young child sees something like that they can only think but to go try it themselves and maybe they will have fun and enjoy themselves. Children that are trying smoking are becoming younger and younger. Smoking has nothing good to offer to children but health problems later on in life. Television impacts children the most as far as advertising goes. Many children as young as three years old recognize brand named products and clothing. When these children spend time watching so much television they cannot help but be influenced by it, and want what they see. These children become so obsessed with having what they see on television that they continue to hassle their parents until they get it. Some parents may even have trouble keeping up with the amount of money their child thinks that they need so they may have the newest products out there. These children that are watching more television, are going to want more toys seen in advertisements and eat more advertised food than children who do not watch as much television (Strasburger, 2001).
             Although many advertisements are negatively affecting children there are those few advertisements out there that are beneficial. For example the ones that are selling educational books for children, and other types of learning materials. These products are nothing but beneficial to younger children. Parents need to be more aware and cautious of what their children are watching and how much of it they are watching. Limit their television time with something a little more educational like reading a book or playing outside.


How are you supposed to Choose Good Children’s Toys?


            There are so many toys out there for children to play with, but how do you

decide if it is a good toy or a bad toy? You can always read the box and try to

get some idea what the toy does before giving it to your child, but how do you

know if that will be enough? There are a lot of ways you can look at this, but

when it comes down to it there are more and more toys being made everyday

that can influence the way your children think or even act. According to the

American Heritage College Dictionary part of the definition of toys is, an object

for children to play with (1455). But today a child can play with anything from a

piece of paper to a computer. How are we supposed to decide what would be

best for them?


            According to The Parenting Network, they feel that home made toys are the best

for children because they feel it increases creativity among children under the

age of five. Also you can observe your child playing with and making the toy.

This way you know exactly what is in the toy and that nothing harmful can come

from the product they produce.

Personally, I feel that you should use your best judgment on something good for

your child. A toy can only be safe if you make it safe and provide the right kind of

teaching for your child to understand how the toy is used. There is not a really a

right or wrong answer, but just to use your best judgment and know that you

taught your child how to play correctly.


Media Violence Affects Children

Over the years there has been an increasing amount of violence in media directed towards children. There have also been an increasing number of violent acts directed toward

children and the high degree of these acts that children see on television, in movies, computer games, videotapes, and the large number of violent toys. The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) feels that the increasing

number of violence endangers children from growing up in a mentally stable way. The NAEYC came up with three consistent problems when children watch television violence: children will notice others pain less, they may become scared of things in the world they live in, and they are more likely to show aggressive behavior towards other people. When children see violence all around them in media, they will feel that violence is the answer when they are angry or disturbed. NAEYC would like to start putting limits on the amount of violence put on television during the time when children will most likely be watching. They also would like to limit the amount of advertising on television during these times, so that kids can tell the advertisements and the television show apart. Teachers and parents can help get rid of the amount of violence that is shown to children. Teachers can help teach children that television is not real and that violence should not be the answer to solve problems. Parents can regulate the television shows that they are allowing their children to watch and make sure they are not watching shows that teach them


            The problem of violence shown to children in the media will not be solved easily. This violence doesn’t only show how violent our society is, but it helps make our society more violent. If we continue to allow the violence on television that is consistently shown to our children, then our future nation will have a large quantity of angry adults and criminals.




In Conclusion

            In the preceding paragraphs, we have seen some of the reasons why we advertise to children, some different positive and negative effects of TV advertisement on children, How people can cut through the hype of TV ads and pick good things for their children. “Infants, toddlers, and preschoolers are spending far more time watching DVDs and clicking remote controls and computer mice than reading books, according to a Kaiser Foundation study released yesterday

            The effect of such high-intensity media exposure is unclear, researchers said, but what is clear is that the under-6 set is becoming far more media savvy than anyone expected. “The last time we did a big study on kids and media, about 5 years ago, we didn’t think to go younger than two because they didn’t think there was anything there" said the study’s lead author, Vicky Rideout, vice president of the Kaiser foundation. "But that’s really changed. And based on what we've now found with the 6-month to 2 year olds, if we do this kind of study again, we'd probably go down to birth." (Washington post 2003).




Washington Post (October 29, 2003) Under-6 set tunes in tv’s not books Toledo Blade, 153(302), PA 1/5


National Association for the Education of Young

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Horovitz, Bruce. (December 18, 1997). "Cashing in on kids Retailers in search of customers for life," USA Today, PA 1A.


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McDonald, Marci and Lavelle, Marianne. “Call it Kid-fluence.” U.S. News & World Report 131. 4 (2001) : 32


Pine, Karen J and Nash, Avril. “Dear Santa: The Effects of Television Advertising on Young Children.” International Journal of Behavioral Development 26. 6 (2002) : 529


The American Heritage College Dictionary. Boston: American Heritage, 2002


NYBOR,LLC (1996-2002) Available online:


McNeal, James (2001). Quoted in McDonald M, Lavelle M.


Call it kid-fluence. U.s. News & World Report, July 30, 2001, p.32.Strasburger, Victor C. (2001, June).


Children and TV advertising: Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, 22, 185. Education Digest (2000, January).

Junk-food marketing goes elementary. p, 32.