Student says advertising to children should be banned

The Channels Opinion Pages | STAFF COLUMN

Julia Pizza, Associate Editor

As a child, I fell victim to the manipulative ads for fancy dolls and fattening junk food.

After almost 20 years of being exposed to catchy advertising, I still get caught in the clever trap.

Every time I scroll through Facebook, I see intriguing advertisements for blackhead removing face masks.

The first time I bought a product like this, it took me over an hour to peel off.  Each time I pulled, it felt as if I was ripping off the outer-layer of my skin.

Oddly enough, my blackheads were still there. The advertised result did not go as planned, which sadly, is something that happens more often than not.

I understand that advertising is an essential part of commercialization, but its biggest problem is the target it poses on children.

Advertisers use this “trial and error” phase in vulnerable adolescents to their advantage.

In countries like Greece, Denmark and Belgium, advertising to children and product placement in children’s programming is banned.

I believe the U.S. should take on this same law.

In 2009, Nielsen reported that children between the ages of 6 and 11 spend about 22 hours a week watching television. About 13 minutes per hour is designated to advertisements.

The purpose of advertising is to promote a product or service to induce a person to buy it. What child even has the capacity to go and buy something on his or her own?

I have a 7-year-old brother who constantly watches TV or plays games on an iPad. I live two hours away from him, yet every time I get a chance to visit him, he will not take his eyes off of his iPad. Sometimes, even when I try and talk to him, he doesn’t acknowledge me because he is so enveloped in his virtual world.

By being so attached to those media outlets, he is saturated with advertisements.

When that Minecraft ad comes up on his screen asking if he wants to purchase a new rainbow-colored skin for only $10, he proceeds to press “yes.” Being that he doesn’t have any real money of his own, that charge automatically comes out of my father’s credit card attached to his Apple ID.

This is only a single example of how advertising manipulates children. It doesn’t make sense how so much power can be put into children’s hands, all before they have been taught how to handle money or even dress themselves for school.

Ads convince children that having the most “things” is what gives them status or validation on the playground.

Advertising creates a constant war between child and parent. As soon as a parent says no, the parent automatically becomes a child’s roadblock on their way to an artificial self-worth.

Some may argue that this would drive down business or that child products can only be effectively advertised to children themselves.

On the contrary, advertising to a child only convinces a child to “want” a product. Convincing a child to want a toy is the easy part. Convincing a parent to buy the product is where the advertising efforts should be directed.

According to information from a lecture in my mass media communication class, an average of $17 billion a year is spent on marketing to children.

That money could easily be spent on more innovative, effective, ways to advertise to a more appropriate audience.

If advertisers are going to continue to put children in this situation, media literacy should be taught throughout the elementary school curriculum.

It isn’t right that their young minds be manipulated to desire material things without having the knowledge to think critically, and understand how these messages shape our culture and society.