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This House would restrict advertising aimed at children
This House would restrict advertising aimed at children
The power that advertising, and media more generally, wields has been and will continue to be an area of debate for years to come. Advertising is largely, particularly in the western world, an inescapable phenomena; from the moment we wake up to the time we sleep advertisements bombard us. Estimates of the amount advertisements people are exposed to on a daily basis ranges vastly from an arguably modest 200 to anywhere up-to around 3,000 messages per day.1
One of the main contentions regarding the issue is the argument to what degree, if at all, children can critically engage with advertising and whether or not it is ethical to allow corporate interests to try and change the perceptions and behavior of the young. There is undeniably a great deal of advertising on television currently which is aimed at children, promoting not only toys and sweets but also products such as food, drink, music, films and clothing to young consumers from toddlers to teenagers. Increasingly this practice is coming under attack from parents' organizations, politicians and pressure groups in many countries. The UK, Sweden, Ireland, Greece, Italy, Denmark and Belgium all currently impose national restrictions, and these have also been proposed in most other EU countries and in the USA. Within Europe, the EU Audiovisual Media Services Directive has been in place since the end of 2009 and places further restrictions on advertising to children, while also stressing the role of self-regulation among industry groups. Can advertising towards children be justified, is it ethical to shield them from a phenomena which is pervasive in global culture and is arguably something they need to learn about or should children be protected from advertising messages aimed at influencing their behavior for the benefit of business.
|Points For||Points Against|
|Advertising towards children can be exploitative and encourage poor habits||Advertising helps children to integrate into the society in which they live|
|Advertising towards children is unethical as they do not have their own money to purchase the goods||Banning advertisements is a restriction on freedom of speech.|
|There is precedent for putting restrictions on advertising||Restricting advertising will harm the production of entertainment programs aimed at children|
|It is not ethical to advertise towards children as they cannot critically engage with the communication.|
Remember to choose a winning argument!
Advertising towards children can be exploitative and encourage poor habits
Advertising aimed at children brings negative social consequences, as much of it is for food and drinks that are very unhealthy with James Rouse1 stating that in the US over $10 billion is spent annually advertising fast food towards children. Encouraging gullible children to consume so much fatty, sugary and salty food is unethical because it creates obese, unhealthy youngsters, with bad eating habits that will be with them for life. Society also has to pay a high price in terms of the extra medical care such children will eventually require, so the government has a direct interest in preventing advertisements which contribute to this problem.Improve this
Children naturally like foods that are rich in fats, proteins and sugar; they give them the energy they need to play energetically and grow healthily. It is true that eating only such foods is bad for people, but this is a problem of bad parenting rather than the fault of advertising. To suggest that the eating habits, good or bad, stay with children throughout the rest of their lives is ridiculous, when children become adults they will for better or for worse make their own decisions. Also if advertising to children were banned then governments would not be able to use this means of promoting healthy eating, road safety, hygiene, and other socially useful messages.Improve this
Advertising towards children is unethical as they do not have their own money to purchase the goods
Advertising specifically to children is unethical because they have little or no money of their own and have to persuade their parents to buy the products for them. Rather than advertising directly to parents, companies use a "nag and whine" campaign that leads to hostility between parents and children. They rely on pester power to make adults spend money they don't have on things they don't want to buy, and which their children may well only play with for a few hours for example. Advertising which presents products to children as "must-have" is also socially divisive, making children whose parents cannot afford them appear inferior, and creating feelings of frustration and inadequacy, as well as leading families into debt.1Improve this
Advertising has no magical power to create unnatural desires for material possessions, Children who persistently nag are simply badly brought up. Poor parenting and undisciplined children cannot be solved by banning advertising, as children have many influences upon them which can stimulate their desires for toys, particularly their friends. It is also untrue that children have no spending power of their own; many children receive pocket money, and teenagers are often able to earn a little themselves. Natasha Smith1 estimates that the average annual amount of pocket money children aged 12-18 are given in the UK is £1,028, which equates to £19.77 a week.
Learning to manage money is also an important part of growing up, advertisements help assist children to not only choose what they would like but also motivates them to save and subsequently to learn the true value of money.Improve this
There is precedent for putting restrictions on advertising
There is a good precedent for banning advertising aimed at children in the restrictions placed in most countries upon advertising tobacco and alcohol. It also takes a stand against increasingly exploitative marketing campaigns that ruthlessly target children. In the USA marketing companies are already offering schools free televisions in exchange for their students being forced to watch a certain amount of programming and advertisements each day, and selling marketing data on those children. It is time that childhood was protected from such commercialization. Such a ban would be limited such as being only preventing advertising aimed at children rather than an outright attempt to stop children from seeing adverts. Companies could therefore still advertise their children's products if they aim their adverts at the parents rather than the children. Alternatively the ban could be preventing advertising at times when children are most likely to be watching the television as has happened in Sweden.1Improve this
Even limited bans are unlikely to be effective and would set a bad precedent which is likely to result in ever more restrictions upon the freedom of expression. Children watch many programmes that adults also enjoy, and some adults are also particularly suggestible; should we then extend this ban to all television advertising. And why stop at television when children are also exposed to radio, cinema, the internet and billboards in the street as well? Perhaps companies should also be banned from sponsoring entertainment and sporting events for children, and prevented from providing free branded resources for schools. On the other hand, any restrictions will be impossible to enforce as television is increasingly broadcast by satellite across national borders and cannot easily be controlled - nor can the internet.Improve this
It is not ethical to advertise towards children as they cannot critically engage with the communication.
Advertising towards children cannot be considered ethical as children have not yet fully developed their mental cognition. They lack the complete toolset to view advertising critically and advertisers take advantage of this, disregarding any negative effects it may have on children and society more generally.
What must be remembered is advertising is sometimes much more subtle than commercial breaks on television. It can be found in many more places; advertisers target children in schools, online with content such as product-branded games and also via product placement to name but a few examples. These types of advertising are much harder for children to be critical of as they are less overt; with product placement even often evading the direct attention of adult viewers. In a consultation by the Royal College of Nursing1, regarding product placement, it is stated that "children are already susceptible to advertising messages and may not have the media literacy required to recognize adverts which take place during programming" What this amounts to then is manipulation of children who are vulnerable to such messages. Trying to get children to become "cradle-to-grave" customers is highly unethical.Improve this
Advertisers are subject to strict regulations to ensure that children are not taken advantage at time when they are still developing mental skill-sets. However children live in a commercialized world and should not be entirely shielded from it as without being subjected to some advertising children will never be able to learn fully how to critically engage with advertising. Advertisers recognize that they must be careful in advertising to children so many go above and beyond the standard regulations to ensure that any advertising towards children they do is socially responsible with many companies signing up to self-regulation codes such as the AANA Code for Advertising & Marketing Communications to Children.1
It is unfair to suggest that children do not have the ability to recognize and read advertising entirely, Bijmolt, T. et al2 states in research on the topic, with a sample consisting of 5 to 8 year olds, that children are, to a degree, able to distinguish between what is a television program and what is an advert but more crucially it states that "A high level of parental control of TV viewing may result in lower understanding of TV advertising" Based on this statement it could therefore be argued that banning adverts aimed at children in their entirety is wrong as it will prevent children from learning how to critically engage with advertising which could simply create different social problems when the children grow up and have to integrate much more fully with the commercialized world in which they live.Improve this
Advertising helps children to integrate into the society in which they live
Advertising is an important part of commercial activity and living in societies in which commercialism plays an all important role in shaping our lives it is right that children should experience it. For children to fully integrate and engage in society they need to be allowed to experience the forces that shape it, commercial activity through the form advertisements is a part of this experience.
To shield children entirely from advertising is to allow them to be brought up in a false reality of the society in which they live, in order to develop it is important that children are safely exposed to the forces which shape their world. The World Federation of Advertisers, in Quin, R1 states that:
"Advertising is a part of a child's normal environment. It plays a part in the child's development process by equipping children with the necessary knowledge and skills to act as responsible consumers in later life."
Advertising aimed at children indoctrinates them into believing that consumerism is the natural way of ordering the world. It is important that children learn about consumerism but advertising cannot teach children about it in a fair and balanced way, as advertising is a part of the capitalist system it is inescapably bias.
Advertising does not inform children about commercialism it simply encourages them to be a part of it. O'Barr W1 in a journal titled Advertising and Society Review explicitly states that: "The socialization of children into market behavior and their indoctrination into the values of consumption are vital to the continuity of a capitalist society" he goes on to state that this is what exposing children to advertising achieves.
It is erroneous to suggest that advertising is normal in the upbringing of a child, while it plays an important part in society this does not mean we should therefore expose children to it straight away, once children have the capacity to engage critically with the communication it would then be appropriate to aim messages at young people.
Banning advertisements is a restriction on freedom of speech.
Banning advertisements is a severe restriction upon freedom of speech. Companies like individuals have a right to have freedom of commercial speech so long as it is not false or misleading and is not advertising an illegal or harmful activity.1 Companies should be able to tell the public about any legal products, or innovation will be restricted and new companies will find it hard to market their products successfully in the face of established rivals. Children also have a human right to receive information from a wide range of sources and make up their own minds about it. They are far from being brainwashed by advertisements, which form only a small part of their experiences; family, friends, school and other television programmes are much more important and all give them alternative views of the world.Improve this
The issue is not strictly one of freedom of speech, what advertisers really want is the freedom exploit the vulnerable, this should not be allowed as it is ethically deplorable. Exploitative advertising brainwashes children into becoming eager consumers and capitalists. Multinational companies deliberately encourage them to be materialistic so that they associate happiness with purchasing power and the possession of particular goods. A study recently found that children in Sweden, where marketing campaigns to the under-12s are banned, wanted significantly fewer toys than children in Britain, where there are no restrictions.1Improve this
Restricting advertising will harm the production of entertainment programs aimed at children
Advertisements are the means by which most television stations are funded. If advertising to children is banned, then broadcasters will stop showing children's programmes, or greatly reduce their quality and quantity, which is clearly not in the public interest. State broadcasters such as the UK's BBC, and specialist subscription channels that are also not dependent upon advertising revenue would both welcome restrictions upon the ability of commercial broadcasters to compete with them in children's programming. As competition is the best means of improving choice, diversity and quality, their lobbying on this issue should be disregarded. Nor does advertising only benefit commercial broadcasters, consumers also benefit. Children's magazines rely upon advertising to be affordable - logically under this proposal they should be prevented from doing so, and so effectively shut down. A study by egta, the association of radio and television sales houses, estimated the gross overall annual revenue that egta members based in the European Union earned from advertising to children was 320 million Euros and concluded "were revenue from advertising to children cut off, both public and private TV channels would have major difficulties financing children's programmes."1
Broadcasting is increasingly diverse, with state-funded, commercial and subscription channels all available in most countries. Restricting advertising a little will not make much difference to revenues of commercial broadcasters and they could be regulated to ensure that they continue to offer a good standard of children's programming. It is unlikely that advertisers would stop placing advertisements all-together in between children's TV programming as the opposition argue as they are not the only audience for such programming, marketers understand that the parents of the children will often be present when such programming is on so advertising will not entirely dry up.
Program quality would, most arguably, actually improve as much children's television in the 21st century on involves considerable product-placement and advertising tie-ins, which result in poor programmes and unimaginative formats.
Schor, J. (2004) Born to Buy: The Commercialized Child and the New Consumer Culture. Scribner: New York
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