Monday, April 2, 2012

Kids Exposed to 25,000+ Ads a Year

Advertising aimed directly at kids is a serious issue that, in my opinion, can never get enough attention.

Adults have a hard enough time fighting through the clutter of persuasive ads that target our feelings of insecurity: we don't have the right appearance, enough money, enough excitement in our lives. We struggle with not feeling good enough, or not having enough things in our lives, to simply be happy.

I instantly trash most catalogs that come my way (in the recycling bin); why tempt myself with things I don't need or can't afford? I record almost everything I watch on TV, and I fast-forward through commercials. I would argue that I am happier because I limit my own exposure to advertising.

Now think about our kids. Children don't have any learned defenses against advertising. In fact, young kids can't even distinguish a television ad from a featured program, and kids under the age of eight don't understand that ads attempt to persuade them.

According to Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, a national organization focused on limiting kids' commercial exposure, "companies spend about $17 billion annually marketing to children, a staggering increase from the $100 million spent in 1983," and "children ages 2-11 see more than 25,000 advertisements a year on TV alone."

25,000 ads a year. So what? The organization explains why we should care:
Advertising sells children on more than products and brands.  It also promotes values and behaviors.  Childhood obesity, eating disorders, youth violence, sexualization, the erosion of children’s creative play, materialistic values, and family stress are all linked to the commercialization of childhood.
Here are some tips to limiting your kids' exposure to commercials that I have used and found helpful:
  • As always, manage TV time responsibly, and turn the TV to commercial-free television.
  • If you have one, take advantage of a Digital Video Recorder (DVR) or other recording device so you can fast-forward through commercials.
  • Watching live TV? Consider hitting the mute button when it's ad time, or turn off the TV for a few minutes until the program resumes.
  • Get involved in the Commercial Free Childhood organization, or other similar causes. Through these groups, you can take action with policy and legislative decisions, organize local educational events, and report offensive ads.
A great list of more ideas for managing your children's exposure to advertisements is found on Common Sense Media's web site. Here the advice is categorized by developmental age.

Finally, remember that ads don't just come through the TV. Kids are now targeted via ads in video games, web sites, movies, books, videos/DVDs and even music. We as parents can be the first defense against those 25,000 ads a year.

Source: Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood

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