ADVERTISING, TARGETING KIDS: SOME CONCERNS


Mrs. Charu Vyas
Lecturer, Child Development
F.H.S., Banasthali Vidyapith
E-mail : charu@banasthali.ac.in
 

Dr. Harsh Purohit
Lecturer
WISDOM, Banasthali Vidyapith
E-mail : harsh_wisdom@yahoo.com


THE BIG PROBLEM OF THE SMALL BEING

Children use several products and services offered by marketers. However in recent times the marketers have started using them as models or targeting them the message. At the same time, the time that a child spends on television is also on the rise. It is common to find a child model involved in advertisements of pan masala, fairness cream and even electric products! TV advertising and sponsorship of programs aimed at children below the age of 12 are prohibited in some European countries. In Austria and Belgium no advertising is permitted 5 minutes before or after children's programs. Australia does not allow advertisements during pre-school children's programs. It is very disheartening to find that nothing such is prescribed by ASCI in India. Though it prohibits child targeting and use as a model to some extent, the marketers exploit the loopholes. Today it is getting increasingly difficult for the parents to stop or supervise children. Parents, due to their busy schedule are also unable to specifically guide their children.

THE CONCERNS

Many advertisements show violence, which is very dangerous:

Viewing TV violence is emotionally arousing for children and leads to the activation of a network of brain regions involved in attention, arousal, and salience. Viewing TV violence activates a phylogeneticaly-old brain system involved in the detection of fear/threat in the environment.  While children might not be aware of a threat posed by TV violence at a conscious level, this primitive brain system may not discriminate between real violence and entertainment fictional violence, suggesting that TV violence may act at a preconscious level. Viewing TV violence activates brain systems likely to be involved with memorizing the content and context of the threat. Viewing TV Violence also activates premotor regions of the brain, which are believed to be involved in motoric preparation to deal with threats in environments similar to those viewed (fight or flight response). Researches suggest that viewing violence may be attractive for neurological reasons and has implications for children's later aggressive behavior.

Children try to mimic more

A child tries to mimic more than an adult. In a matter of seconds, most children can mimic a character, sing an advertising jingle, or give other examples of what they have learned from advertisements. Sadly, these examples may include naming a popular brand of beer, striking a "sexy" pose, or play fighting. Children only have to just watch TV to experience all kinds of messages. It really is that easy. Advertisements offer entertainment, culture, news, sports, and education. They are an important part of our lives and have much to teach. But some of what they teach may not be what we want children to learn. Sometimes you can see the impact of advertisements right away, such as when your child watches superheroes fighting and then copies their moves during play. But most of the time the impact is not so immediate or obvious. It occurs slowly as children see and hear certain messages over and over.

Developing bad and irritating habits

Use of cigarettes and alcohol Messages about tobacco and alcohol are everywhere. Kids see characters on screen smoking and drinking. They see signs for tobacco and alcohol products at concerts and sporting events. Advertising send kids the message that smoking and drinking make a person sexy or cool and that "everyone does it." Advertising also sways teens to smoke and drink. Teens who see a lot of ads for beer, wine, liquor, and cigarettes admit that it influences them to want to drink and smoke. In America it is not by chance that the three most advertised cigarette brands are also the most popular ones smoked by teens. Advertisers of tobacco and alcohol purposely leave out the negative information about their products. As a result, young people often do not know what the health risks are when they use these products. Sometimes an advertisement might do a story about the common causes of cancer but not mention smoking as a top cause. Does your child know why?

Issue of Health

Advertisements also focus Fatty foods and thin bodies. They heavily promote unhealthy foods while at the same time telling people they need to lose weight and be thin. Heavy use can also take time away from physical activity. Studies show that girls of all ages worry about their weight. Many of them are starting to diet at early ages. Advertisements can promote an unrealistic image of how people look. Often, the thin and perfect-looking person on screen or in print is not even one whole person but parts of several people! Using body doubles, airbrushing, and computer-graphics techniques creates this "person".

Portray a world different from the actual

Many advertisements focus on non-existing or imaginary concepts of life resulting in abnormal mindset of children. A survey conducted in Chandigarh by an NGO 'Srijan' revealed that most of the kids aspire to become crorepati by any means and have imaginary mindset of doing so which is far from the real world. They were found highly influenced by certain advertisements and had derived several concepts from them.

Pester Power

In order to make the message more appealing kids are used. Now the kids start pressurizing their parents to buy the product, which the parents find very difficult to handle. Thus the advertisers use them to trigger emotions. Parents look for ways to appease children and advertising suggests a basket of goodies to cure the ' you don't love me' syndrome, which is simply emotional blackmail underlined by parental guilt.
Parents many a time have to suffer as a result. They sometimes want to avoid further troubles and buy it or use violence to control the child!

Imposition of different culture

With the advent of MNCs some advertisements are designed keeping in view the western culture. So if this is fed right from the age of 6-7 than the child slowly starts respecting western culture more. Children watching such commercials may find themselves difficult to adjust. Aggressively talking back to adults, frequent nightmares should not surprise us. Apart from creating mindless consumers, advertising also runs the risk of influencing values (gender values, male - female relationships, family ties and their quality, reinforcing stereotypes), buying patterns and lifestyles.

CONCLUSION

The potential of advertising in shaping the consciousness of children is unquestionable. It is a responsibility of Companies, Media, ASCI as well the Parents to ensure that the future of India develops in the desirable way
 


Dr. Harsh Purohit
Lecturer
WISDOM, Banasthali Vidyapith
E-mail : harsh_wisdom@yahoo.com

&

Mrs. Charu Vyas
Lecturer, Child Development
F.H.S., Banasthali Vidyapith
E-mail : charu@banasthali.ac.in
 

Source : E-mail December 15, 2003

 

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