Years ago, movie theatres were the only place a person would see ratings. Nowadays, the television industry has expanded on freedoms and censorship so much so that television programs are also required to carry ratings. That may have been a step in the right direction but a problem still exists – commercials. A commercial is an advertisement and the goal of advertising is to promote and sell the product. Commercials are designed to appeal to their audience and create an impact. Commercials are not rated and research shows that children are more susceptible to these
messages which in turn can influence their habits in a negative way. The American Psychological Association (APA) appointed a Task Force in 2000 to study the effects of advertising on children. The team of experts found that children under the age of eight years old are extremely influenced and persuaded by television advertising. Many commercials are geared toward children. Some even utilize children’s favorite characters to sell a product. Children listen to the advertisements and believe what they see and hear. They are unable to distinguish the fact that the advertisement is a selling tool.
It is estimated that the average child views more than 40,000 television commercials in a year. Advertisements range from food such as cereals and snacks to toys to beer and liquor commercials. Even the sex industry has commercials for dating, phone sex and condoms plus pharmaceutical companies promote male and sexual enhancement drugs. A child’s interpretation of a commercial advertisement creates a feeling that the product is a necessity rather than a choice. This has become a problem in several different ways. Nearly two-thirds of the ads viewed by children are food-related and promote unhealthy
eating habits in children.. Advertisements, mainly those for high-sugared foods, rarely give any information regarding sugar content, calories, cholesterol, salt, fat or a balance diet. The commercial is generally as sweet as the product in a child’s eyes and the message becomes a brainwashing for the child. Advertisements also do this by using children’s favorite characters to endorse their product. Childhood obesity has become an increasing problem in the United States. Television advertisements for sweet treats attribute to this problem. Ads never show overweight children
snacking on their products. Children see these ads and develop a hunger for the product without ever realizing the consequences. Children view almost 2,000 advertisements for alcohol-related products in a year. These products include beer, alcohol and wine. These commercials may target an older audience but the advertisements usually show good times and children perceive the product as a necessity for fun. They also show the consumers as sexy, successful and happy. Alcohol-related ads are often played during sports programs such as football and contribute to the rise in the youth drinking
problem. These products never show the dangers of alcohol. Controversy stirred when advertisements for condoms hit the air waves on MTV. With teenagers as the target audience, some viewed it as a way for the industry to promote sex. Others saw it as a precautionary measure and educational message. Still, the commercials had no ratings and younger children viewed the condom advertisements. The provocative ads were more than young children needed to know or understand. Television advertisement can also subconsciously teach children how to stereotype other people.
This can affect their behavior when it comes to race and gender. Studies have shown that generally white men are depicted as strong in commercials and white woman are classified sex objects, African-American men are shown to be aggressive while African-American women are shown as unimportant. Advertisements for household cleaning products stereotype by featuring women in the endorsements. Stereotyping by these means can limit a child’s growing mind from achieving their own independence. Violence is another issue promoted in television advertising. Commercials for video games
entice children despite the ratings now imposed on games. Also, advertisements for R-rated movies show scenes with horror and violence during their commercial. Ratings on video games and movies mean nothing during the 30 or 60-second spot. Even if parents try to keep their young children away from violent games and movies, the advertisements introduce children to violence which increases aggressive behavior and often desensitizes children to the real world. Effective advertising is supposed to make an impression on the consumer. However, studies show that it is even more effective on children.
It somewhat brainwashes youngsters and forms addictions and bad habits along the way. While you can monitor television programs, it is next to impossible to monitor television advertising. Parents need to talk with their children and make them understand that commercials only show the good things about a product and that the product is a choice and not a necessity. The APA suggests having young children under the age of eight watch public television stations. Public television is very limited in commercials, most shows are sponsored or brought to you by a business or product.
Another recommendation from the APA is to record television programs without taping the commercials. Renting or buying videos and DVDs can be another alternative. In a child’s mind, the world is influential. Censorship and ratings help curb the negative influences but there will always be something in between. In the case of television, it is the advertising leaving the lasting and too often unhealthy impression on a child.
“Television Advertising Leads To Unhealthy Habits In Children Says APA Task Force”. American Psychological Association. Accessed 9 March 2007. http://www.apa.org/releases/childrenads.html