As per recent statistics, toddlers and preschoolers are influenced heavily by product brands in advertisement videos as short as 30 seconds. Children are addicted to advertisements and are subject to more than a 6% risk for obesity for every hour of watching television.
The advertisement industry spends billions of dollars to promote various products and brands through advertisements. Advertising is a pure business, where the owner of a firm invests capital to earn profits through the sale of his products. Children become the main target for advertisers since they belong to the most naive and easily-influenced category in the society. An average child is exposed to over 40,000 advertisements over the television, internet, magazines, newspapers, etc., in an accounting year. So, are children being used by businessmen to earn profit? Let's move deeper.
It isn't true that advertisements only have a bad effect on the younger generation. As mentioned, advertisements are a mean of spreading awareness about the products available in the market. However, some ads influence society in a positive way, while some in a negative way.
Children - Immature Minds
- Children tend to believe absolutely anything put before them.
- In the initial years of life, they do not understand concepts, like manipulation, influence, diplomacy, etc. They take everything at face value, believing that if you said it, it may be true. Hence, advertisers use these innocent minds to their advantage.
- A marketer will design an ad in such a way that a child gets fascinated, after which he/she will pester his/her parents to buy the product.
- After throwing tantrums for the same, a parent might give in and buy the product for the happiness of their kid. Here is where the marketer succeeds. His aim of selling his products through advertisements is achieved.
- On the other hand, the child learns to throw tantrums to get his way out and get what he wants. He also learns to become more stubborn and impatient. Therefore, advertisements indirectly affect the behavior of a child.
- Marketers also believe in the say, 'old habits die hard'. Today's kids become tomorrow's customers. Hence, if they get addicted to a lifestyle that includes their manufactured products, it would fetch them customers in the future as well.
- Through this, a marketer secures a long term sale of his goods.
Advertisements - Influencing Children
A marketer will invest in unrealistic advertisements either when his product is not very helpful or highly expensive. This may include, unhealthy food, aerated water, cosmetics that are harsh on the skin, branded clothes, etc. Such products are purchased by a customer under wrong influence. For example, an energy drink, which may have harmful content, will not be able to display a good reason as to why should people buy the drink. Hence, displaying something unrealistic like a person flying after drinking the product, due to the excess energy obtained from the drink, is a trick used, to fascinate kids
Several researches were done to prove that, commercials have a tremendous effect on the psychology of children. On seeing just one commercial of a product, children have a desire to own it. Unhealthy junk food, is not considered unhealthy by kids because of the skinny models endorsing it. Children tend to believe that the model eats the food he/she endorses and is still so fit. Some children may also believe that eating such food will help them acquire the shape of the model.
However, in reality, kids that feed on a lot of junk food, tend to become obese and face several health problems. Statistics show that the rate of obesity in kids below the age of 5 has significantly increased in recent years. Junk food is one of the main reasons for this increase. The nutritional value in junk food is more or less zero. This is the same case with soft drinks. This only creates a wrong impression on young minds, making them lose the ability to live a life without relying on materialistic joys. The power of advertising thus, cannot be ignored.
Most advertisements also relate to physical intimacy. There are a lot of commercials out there that try to relate their products with intimacy, for example, deodorants. They try to portray the deodorant as a way of attracting people. Which means, spraying that particular deodorant will mesmerize guys/girls and make them want to be with or around you.
There are also some commercials that portray woman as sex symbols through obscene clothes. The impact of these advertisements are so bad, that they can raise questions about culture and morality in the minds of kids. Such advertisements actually aim to influence growing teens and adults. However, the marketers forget that these advertisements are being watched by kids, too.
Some advertisements also broadcast dangerous stunts that are actually performed by professional experts. However, the kids do not concentrate on the statutory warning and practice these stunts at home. Advertisements also leave kids with the feeling of inferiority. A child will obviously desire the fancy things he watches on the television or sees in magazines and newspapers. He would feel inferior, if he sees that his fellow mates can afford them, while he can't. In such cases, children tend to develop a low self-esteem.
Advertisements confuse kids when it comes to differentiating between reel life and real life. This is because marketers aim at producing ads that most people can relate to. For example, a top-notch model, suffering from hair fall, almost balding and then having the best hair possible, with the use of one shampoo. The reality may be a wig or zero hair fall in the first place. But kids fail to divulge the truth behind this falsehood. Studies have revealed that children who watch a lot of these advertisements face lag in performing tasks, like reading, solving puzzles, etc.
However, advertisements can also have a positive effect on children. There are some exceptionally good advertisements that bring about values in kids. They focus on values like honesty and goodness. Such ads help in creating a positive effect on the innocent minds of kids. For example, no smoking ads, ads on living an eco-friendly life, etc. Advertisements also better the knowledge of kids. It is through ads, that the kids become aware of the new innovations of technology and products in the market.
There are also some commercials that promote healthy food and a healthy living. For example, digestive wheat biscuits, 100% fruit juices, etc. A few commercials also spread awareness of diseases that can be cured if diagnosed at an early stage. Such ads are informational and educating to both kids as well as adults.
The Measures a Parent Should Take
- Absolutely no parent requires the help of the media to bring up their kids.
- However, it is highly impossible to keep your child completely away from media influence. Hence, parents should talk things out with their kids.
- While talking, a parent will understand if the child has some wrong message registered in his mind. The kid should be corrected immediately.
- Parents should not give in to everything the child asks them to buy. First, they should check if it is good for the child's health. If it isn't healthy enough, the product shouldn't be purchased.
It is very important for parents to teach children the value of money. The child should be educated on the difference between 'needs' and 'wants'. Programs should be watched with a DVR. In this way, offensive advertisements can be skipped. Parents should keep a strict watch on the child's behavior. Teaching the child how to be critical of ads by picking the flaws in every unrealistic commercial broadcast is very important. In this way, the child will not get influenced very easily by advertisements.