Let’s Get Ethical: Advertising to Children


Videos like the one below calls into question the roll that advertisers have in the lives of American children.



This little number, called the Fast Food song is available on a CD and MP3 for children to sing along to with the appropriate hand gestures. However children learned this song, it is probably safe to say that they knew about these fast food institutions prior to hearing the melody.

This following clip from the documentary Super Size Me shows how easily children recognize the fast food character Ronald McDonald, but are stumped when trying to identify figures such as George Washington and Jesus.



We can only guess how many times children have to have seen Ronald McDonald in order for them to recognize him instantly and be able to recall what company he is associated with as well as certain aspects of his personality. It may be that children naturally are more interested and therefore pay more attention to what they see on television and inside their McDonalds happy meals than what they learn in school. But regardless, this makes a very interesting and sobering point.

With problems such as the children’s obesity epidemic, fast food companies and advertisers are made out to be the bad guy. Whether fast food companies and their advertisers are making children fat, isn’t the main problem, but more so the influence advertisers have on children as consumers. The main problem is that children do not have the same mental capacity as adults and developmentally do not have the ability to decipher advertisers messages and understand that they do not always represent reality. Because of these deficiencies, educational programs have begun to pop up with the mission to make kids media smart buy teaching them how to read and decipher advertisers’ messages.

PBS Kids has a portion of its site directed solely to this purpose called, Don’t Buy It, where it teaches children the tricks that advertisers use to get them to purchase their products. Here, children can learn how to recognize an ad whether it’s a sponsorship, product placement spot or a building’s naming rights. With this education, children can protect themselves from being victims of marketing strategies and instead become smart consumers early on.


PBS Kids.org Don't Buy It


So what do you think? Are these programs like, Don’t Buy It, needed?



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