Waking up in the morning, as we dismiss off the alarm all of us slide off the “great offers” text that we’ve got. Rushing off to catch the bus all we got was a glimpse of the full-page advertisement on the front page of the newspaper lying by the front door. In midst of all the rush around, plug into earphones and as we play our favorite playlist there comes a time interrupting brand endorsement, letting out a deep sigh as we wait and see them move up to premium to go ad-free notification.
Passing tons of billboards, posters and flex boards on the way back, being stopped by an intern who eagerly hands off to give a free coupon of some promotional event. Day after day this cycle repeats. We often neglect or ignore the influence advertising has on our lives. But on a closer look, we can see how each of our simple choices from the brand of cereal we use to the car you aspire to buy in the future is all influenced upon by the advertisements that surround us. If advertisements have such a great impact on us adults who are considered mature, it makes us think upon the influence advertisement must have on children.
Children experience advertising in many forms – on TV, YouTube, apps, radio, billboards, magazines, newspapers, movies, the internet, advergames, text messages, social media and more. How children react to advertising can depend on several things, including their age, what they know or have experienced, and how many opportunities they’ve had to question and talk about what they see in the media.
Advertising can have both positive as well as negative effects on children, based on the content, quality, and presentation of the advertisement. Advertisements, especially public service announcements present innovations and technological milestones that can offer a good learning opportunity to the child. Healthy food choices advertised the right way can also prompt the child to opt for a more balanced diet. Certain advertisements, those for hygiene products can help inculcate good habits in the child. Advertisements may also have motivating content that can encourage children to choose a profession or chase a specific dream. They can help them develop a passion for the same and work towards it from a young age. Certain advertisements that carry content relevant to social change can help promote empathy and a sense of duty towards the community in children. Cautionary advertisements that reveal the consequences of alcohol and smoking can help children understand the risks associated and urge them to stay clear of such products.
While there are a few positive influences of advertisements, they indeed fail to outweigh the negatives. Adverse effects of advertisements like persuasion to purchase a product they like can be a real problem, as the parents may have a stubborn child on their hands demanding that they buy a specific product for him. The message of the advertisement may be interpreted the wrong way and children may tend to focus mainly on the negatives rather than the positives. Certain advertisements portray stunts that can be very dangerous. Although they do come with a statutory warning, it may often be ignored, and kids may attempt to imitate these stunts. Flashy advertisements can result in the development of an impulse buying habit in children. Brand consciousness and an affinity towards expensive branded items can be developed. This may make them shun inexpensive things that serve the same purpose. A large portion of the food items advertised is junk food and has a visually appealing advertise targeting young children. These can influence the eating habits of the child and promote an unhealthy diet leading to obesity. Children may also tend to have lower self-esteem if they believe themselves to be inferior for not owning the various products that are advertised, especially so, if their friends possess these items. The sexual objectification of women in some advertisements is a cause for concern, as children grow up to think that this is the norm. The visual portrayal of certain inappropriate acts in the adverts like lying or cheating can make a vulnerable child believe that the behavior is acceptable.
What can we do?
Knowingly or unknowingly advertisement too has become a part of our daily lives. Enveloped in a world of technology we can’t “guard” children away from advertisements. But what we can do is educate children about advertisements. Children can be taught about the finer concepts of the marketing world. A conversation can be initiated to the child about various strategies that are used by the advertisers to catch hold of his attention. Instead of making a child a pawn to the advertisements it is much better to educate him about it and thus promote his intellectual growth. He can be told about the real nature of the product, how it wouldn’t exactly be the same as what he had seen or picturized and thus expected based upon advertisements. So while humming that new jingle that’s stuck up in your head you must really remind yourself not to get too obsessed upon the product that’s there hiding within the jingle.