Advertisements can have a lasting effect on children and teenagers. They might influence young minds and lead to various physical and mental complications.
You may not be able to stop your child from watching advertisements altogether, but you can always educate them and lay down certain rules to minimize the negative influence. Read this post to understand the positive and negative effects of advertising on children and learn what you can do as a parent.
Negative Effects Of Advertising On Children
According to the American Psychological Association, an average child is exposed to more than 40,000 TV commercials a year. Studies also suggest that children can recall the content after a single exposure to a commercial and may express a desire to buy the product (1).
Thus, it is imperative to understand the impact of advertising on children. Although the adverse effects of watching advertisements may outweigh the positives, not all advertisements are bad, and some could positively influence children.
First, let us consider the negative effects of advertising on children.
1. Influences their buying decisions
Research suggests that children who watch too much television are likely to demand more toys or other products. Until they are teens, children would not be able to identify advertisements as marketing messages, meaning they could perceive these messages and exaggerations as truths and demand to buy those products. In some cases, these ads can stay with them until they become adults (2).
2. Provokes tobacco and alcohol consumption
Advertisements on alcohol and tobacco can have significant repercussions on children and teens. Tobacco and alcohol advertising often targets the vulnerabilities of youth, presenting them as the key to improving self-image and independence, thus provoking children to consume them.
3. Causes eating disorders
Advertisements commonly use young and beautiful women to promote beauty products. It has become a norm to use only fair-skinned women, creating the stereotype that fair skin is beautiful and acceptable in society. Similarly, some ads perpetuate the stereotype that a slim body is healthy and beautiful. Such ads might make children conscious of their appearance and develop a negative body image. These might also lead to eating disorders, such as bulimia or anorexia.
4. Develops materialistic feelings
The constant bombardment of advertisements might dictate every moment of your child’s life, and before you realize it, they may begin to define themselves by what they have and what they don’t for who they are. This personality change can create a void in their lives, and they may try to fill it with materialistic things.
5. Beguiles children to try dangerous stunts
Advertisements often contain false claims or exaggerated content with the intent to attract consumers and grab their interest. Children who are naive may believe them to be true and try to imitate dangerous stunts at home. Although these are accompanied by a statutory message, they are generally overshadowed by the advertisements’ pomp and show.
6. Causes obesity
One of the contributing factors behind childhood obesity is advertising. According to the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity, food companies spend almost $11 billion on TV advertising annually (3). Furthermore, a study conducted in Brazil found that 50% of the advertising directed towards children is related to food, and 80% of those are unhealthy foods high in sugar, fats, and salt (4). Advertisements present the wrong notion that consuming a specific drink or fast food makes children successful or happy.
Under the influence of such ads, children tend to demand to buy more unhealthy foods, leading to obesity.
7. Develops negative feelings
Advertisements usually mock or compare products to show how one product is superior or better than the rest. Children might get influenced by these commercials and start comparing themselves with their peers or believing they are either superior or inferior to the rest. Such behavior may either lower their self-confidence or make them feel superior to others.
8. Influences them to resort to impulsive buying
Brands usually create advertisements with a persuasive intent so that the users buy their products. By repeatedly watching these ads, children might resort to impulsive buying even when they do not need the product.
9. Influences them to like high-end and expensive things
Under the influence of advertisements, children might develop a liking for high-end and branded clothes, shoes, and other products. They may even develop a disregard towards other brands that offer products of the same levels of utility but are not featured in ads.
10. Provokes violence and aggressive thoughts
Some advertisements may contain violent and aggressive content geared toward adults. But when children watch these, they might misinterpret them and resort to bullying or demeaning peers or siblings. Such negative behaviors developed in early childhood may stay with them into adulthood.
Positive Effects Of Advertisements On Children
Advertisements can also benefit children in different ways. Here are a few positive effects of advertising on children.
- Advertisements help children gain knowledge about the various new products and innovations in the market.
- Meaningful advertisements that promote hygienic habits, dental hygiene, etc., might help inculcate good habits in children.
- Advertisements with strong messages, such as helping the elders and saving water, can positively impact children and give them a sense of responsibility.
- Some advertisements spread awareness about road safety, risks of consuming tobacco and alcohol, etc. Such advertisements educate and warn children about the dangers of such activities.
- Some advertisements also help influence children to eat healthily and exercise regularly.
Although the cons outweigh the pros, you can reverse it by following a systematic approach and limiting your child’s exposure to advertisements. Here is how you can do it.
What Can Parents Do?
Parents play a key role in negating the harmful effects of advertising on children. It is in their hands to prevent their children’s minds from getting influenced. Nowadays, advertisements are not limited to television but permeate the Internet, online games, and even school books and supplies. Therefore, parents need to be extra cautious and limit their children’s exposure to advertising.
- The first and foremost thing to do is limit their television viewing time. Keep a cap on their screen time, and do not allow it to go beyond the stipulated time at any cost.
- Encourage them to go out and play with friends for an hour or two daily. This will help divert their minds from the Internet and advertisements.
- Introduce educational channels, such as Discovery and Animal Planet, and encourage them to watch these more often.
- Sit with them while they are watching television. This way, you can explain and educate them to differentiate between good and bad content.
- When a child demands a certain product after watching an advertisement, instead of giving in, you need to explain and show them the ill effects of advertising and how it affects them.
- If your children are entering their teenage, educate them about the ill effects of consuming alcohol and tobacco.
- Talk to children about the value of things and encourage them to practice minimalism. Once they understand the value of money, they might not get attracted to fallacious advertisements.
With some effort and monitoring, you can help your children see the reality of advertisements. When used rightly, advertisements can act as an essential tool for learning about the products and developments in the market. Sometimes, children may also learn some good values and habits from advertisements.
2. Mithun Das, Sisir Ghorai, and Sudip Basu; A Study on Effects of TV Advertising on Children; International Journal of Research and Scientific Innovation (2018).
3. Food Marketing > Television Advertising; UConn Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity
4. Edgar Rebouças and Projeto Crianca e Consumo; Why Advertising is Bad for Children; Re search of foreign legislation
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