Children and Advertising

Because technology and marketing communications are so common in children's lives, they are learning more about media use. Marketers owe it to young people to keep them away from potentially harmful, false, and offensive information because they are naturally innocent, do not have much life experience, and cannot think critically about what they are being told. For example, the stated goal of a cereal commercial may be met (increasing sales and consumption). However, there may be unintended consequences, such as wrong ideas about what is healthy to eat or tension between parents and children if a child's attempt to get their parents to buy the product fails.

What are Children and Advertising?

Commercials on television are generally a kid's first experience with the business world. Even before they can read, many toddlers and pre-schoolers are glued to the tube, and this means that many print ads need to be recovered on them. Young children are more susceptible to marketing messages because they lack the cognitive abilities of older children or adults. Much evidence demonstrates how TV advertisements affect and influence children of all ages.

Advertising on Children's Television and Its Effects

Television ads typically range in duration from fifteen to thirty seconds, and it is predicted that the average youngster may see more than forty thousand of them each year. Marketers focus on young people because of their considerable impact on the consumer sector. In 1998, children under the age of fourteen accounted for $24 billion in spending and had a say in another $188 billion in household purchases. About 80% of all advertising for children is for only four categories: toys, cereals, candy, and fast-food restaurants. Since the 1970s, this trend has shown remarkable consistency. For example, toy commercials tend to be broadcast more frequently in the weeks following Christmas, which falls in the fourth quarter of the calendar year (October–December).

Understandability of Commercials for Children

To "maturely" understand marketing messages, children must have two information-processing skills. They must first have the perceptual ability to distinguish between commercial and non-profit information. Second, students must understand that advertisements are meant to persuade them and should approach those messages with a healthy dose of skepticism. These skills improve over time due to maturing mental and analytic capacities.

Advertisements on Television and Their Impact on Children

Children need to develop two crucial information-processing skills to have a "mature" comprehension of advertising messages. First, they need the perceptual ability to tell advertising from other types of content. Second, students should understand that advertisements are intended to persuade them and approach such messages with a healthy dose of skepticism. Each of these capacities grows as a person's conceptual and analytical skills mature. Overall, a large percentage of pre-schoolers and kindergarteners do not reliably distinguish between television programming and commercials. However, most youngsters gain the perceptual ability to discern between these two categories of content by the time they are around four or five years old. However, this is only the first of two important information-processing skills that young babies need to learn before fully understanding advertising messages.

Commercials on TV are designed to get people to think and act in a certain way. Adults' cognitive filters, or defense mechanisms, are activated when they recognize a given message as an advertisement. These filters consider the following considerations −

Because their minds have yet to develop fully, most kids under eight are still too young to understand how persuasive TV commercials can be. Until this age, most kids are too wrapped up in their thoughts to consider the feelings of others. Because of this, it is harder to tell if commercial claims and appeals are biased or exaggerated to show the advertised product in the best possible light.

Results Anticipated

Many studies show that advertising campaigns significantly impact children's recall of the promoted goods, their desire for the product, and, depending on the child's age, their attempts to encourage their parents to buy the product or their actual purchases. Exposure to an advertisement leads to statistically significant increases in children's desire for the advertised product. In contrast, half or more children in a control group reported a strong desire for a given toy or cereal even without being shown a relevant commercial. Also, surveys have shown that kids who watch more TV (and are therefore exposed to more commercials) try to persuade their parents to buy more junk food when they are out grocery shopping.

Negative Consequences

The cumulative effect of children's prolonged exposure to television advertising may impose significantly greater sociological effects, even though each ad may have as its primary purpose the promotion of product sales. According to some researchers, one of the long-term effects of children's exposure to commercials is an increase in materialistic attitudes.

However, proving this is challenging, as very few children in the United States grow up without extensive media exposure, so there is no control group available for comparative purposes. The negative impacts of advertising in other contexts have been established more robustly. Conflicts between parents and children often arise when children's attempts to influence purchases are turned down. Parents will inevitably have to say no to some of their children's television-prompted demands for new purchases. Research shows that when children are denied a purchase they have asked for, they often get frustrated, upset, or argumentative. Because most children watch a significant number of commercials daily, the frequent purchase requests linked with this may strain parent-child interaction.

  • From an early age, children start making impulsive purchases.

  • Children do risky activities after watching others accomplish them.

  • Children have high standards of living.

  • Childhood obesity is on the rise all over the world because children are attracted to eating more junk food after viewing junk food variety in advertisements.

  • Children need more productive time watching TV.

  • When they do not acquire the item they want, kids get cockier and angrier.

  • Children are experiencing health issues like poor eyesight, headaches, and eye circles after watching TV.

  • Children that watch cartoons like Tom & Jerry, where Tom always feels happier after getting harmed, learn more violence, and do so at a later date.

  • Through commercials, kids can absorb more material quickly, but they also use the same approach in their academics, which is only partially successful. Because a little period makes one forget fullness.

  • Humans tend to be more drawn to negative than good things, and this is especially true of young infants, whose developing brains are more drawn to the bad side and ignore the positive.


Due to their immature information processing skills, children are a particularly susceptible target population for television commercials. Young children are more receptive to persuasion than older children or adults because of their developmental immaturity. They are more receptive to commercial appeals and more likely to believe advertising claims.

Updated on: 27-Apr-2023


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