Thursday, July 22, 2010

Advertising to children

I mentioned a post about advertising to children and I have so many good stories on the subject that it's been difficult what exactly to say so I'll give it my best.

What is advertising?
the act or practice of calling public attention to one's esp. by paid announcements in newspapers, magazine, tv, radio, or on billboards, etc.: to get more customers

I heard a man say that advertising is a way to let people know about a product or service. True, but it's not that simple. It's a way to sell you something. Politicians sell you themselves. Public service announcements sell you an idea. Drug companies sell you a health product. Dentists and doctors sell you their services. Now don't get me wrong. I do not think all advertising is bad. Dentists do need to let people know what they are doing and that getting your teeth checked is important. I'm concerned about advertising that is bad.

I saw the other day a Fruit Loops ad with children in it. They said Fruit Loops has fiber. Sure it does have 3 grams of fiber. But it also has 12 grams of sugar. And sugar is the first ingredient listed meaning that there is more sugar in Fruit Loops than corn flour. Granted there's roughly twice that in soda, but they are trying to sell kids and parents on the idea that children are eating a good food by eating Fruit Loops.

Children and parents are bombarded by advertising. And one needs to be vigilant about what the meaning behind advertising is. When you go to the grocery store, have you been noticing the word "natural" lately? And what does "natural" imply? The word "organic" is heavily regulated to mean a specific thing, but the word natural isn't. So you could use the word natural to mean any food item because they all come from nature. Yet, the word is intended to make you think that the food item that you are picking up is good for you and organic is some way. This also applies to words like fat free, low fat, and no fat. Fat free does not mean an item has no fat. It just means that it has very little fat. It's all relative when it comes to staying in the "not false advertising" area.

So how are our precious children supposed to navigate advertising and what a claim really means if we adults have trouble ourselves? The bottom line is they can't. And the government has tied it's hands of regulating what advertisers say to children.

Advertising has been around for a while even advertising to children. My dad's generation grew up with advertising on the radio and tv if you had one. Think of the movie A Christmas Story. That's my dad's generation. You had little Ralphie drinking Ovaltine and listening to little orphan Annie (LOA). None of the kids in the movie wore LOA t-shirts, slept in LOA sheets, and wrote with LOA pencils. That idea was unheard of. But fast forward a generation and my brother had Teenage mutant ninja turtle stuff.

Keeping with A Christmas Story. You remember that Ralphie wanted a beebee gun for Christmas but everyone told him that he would hurt himself. Santa, Mom, his teacher. I mention that I don't want HB to have a beebee gun (or anything with the word gun attached to it) and my husband gives me a strange look. Because it's normal for little boys to have pellet guns if they want them.

Violence is sold to children. Movies that used to be R are now PG-13. You can actually use the F word in a PG-13 movie but only once. The movie series Twilight is rated PG-13. Yet the movies have violence and sexuality. And as I mentioned before that my husband's cousin watches that. Harry Potter, which I love the books, markets costumes and dolls to little children who if they watch the movies or read the books will discover that they are dark and violent in nature.

Getting off the violence in movies and advertising merchandise. Let's talk about body images. When I was in hs, I stopped getting beauty magazines. I realized that we didn't have Christian dior where I lived and even if we did we couldn't afford the clothes. And not all make-up artists uses mabelline mascara on the super stars. But that's what the magazines said. Some how my hair was "wrong" because it wasn't the right color or texture. My beautiful God given face was "wrong" because I wasn't wearing Clinique foundation. I realized this magazine was wrong and I haven't bought the teen mags/beauty mags since. I have Better Homes and Gardens and parenting mags, but I'm not really happy about them. For one, it's mostly page after page of ads. Secondly, how does beauty and fashion work into Homes and Gardens? Why does having the perfect lip liner make me a better mom? Bottom line: it doesn't. It's just more advertising.
The same is true of teen mags and now mags designed for younger children. We're telling our beautiful eight year old children that something is wrong with them if they don't have a bra or shave their legs.

I'll embarrass my little cousin for a bit. When she was about six she showed me her bra (I was a teen at the time). It was completely foreign to me to think of this little way too young girl wanted a bra. But there you have it.

Oh, and branding. It's everywhere. Even from birth, babies have Winnie the Pooh and Mickey mouse outfits. There is Dora the Explorer undies for potty training toddlers. You see it in movies all the time and on tv shows. Granted this is adult show, but hubby and I used to watch Scrubs. If you notice, there are in the backdrop posters advertising Nuvaring. I actually started counting them and looking for them to be strategically placed behind the actors in the various shots in different episodes. Yeah, Scrubs isn't trying to tell me what's the best method of birth control.

To top it all off, marketers actually study children's reactions to ads. They also work to get the tantrum or nag factored into things so that children will bug their parents to buy them stuff.

Basically what I'm telling parents is, try your utmost to stay away from advertising. If that means cutting out television and buying plain jane school supplies than so be it. We have to teach our children that their value isn't held in their stuff. Their value is in who they are and how they treat others.

1 comment:

  1. Ok, so Kalila still watches way more tv than I'd like... We're working on it (unfortunately Baba is fighting me on it too). Anyways, despite that... I've been so lucky! She doesn't seem to be influenced by most of it. Not saying at all, because she likes her shows a bit too much and will beg for them.. but she doesn't ask for anything she sees on there either. Now what bugs me is she picks up on words from them... like saying mirena or that she likes pms. :-/ I think the only good thing about Jas getting the cable package he did is that I have DVR and have been using it. I rarely watch anything during the day anymore except the music channels in the background. Main exception is when he's home...

    She has pointed out a couple of things at the store w/ characters on them. They get turned down lol. Thankfully she doesn't throw a fit or anything, but I'm not paying more for that junk. I don't let her watch spongebob, she's not eating his mac n cheese either!


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