3 reasons why marketing to children is unhealthy

Why marketing to children is unhealthy

Image: Pixabay.com/ Canva.com

“For a young person with creative ambitions, copywriting is one of the coolest jobs around. I got a huge buzz when my ads appeared on TV or in magazines. (…) Who cared if it was all meaningless crap?” ~ Greg Foyster

There is a world between commercial copywriting and my job. A large part of what doctors do everyday, consists of undoing the damage caused by marketing and selling of unhealthy products.

That was the good news. The bad news is: Doctors are not winning.

What the industry says

Marketing to children is a controversial topic. There are people who feel we don’t need more regulation to protect our children from fast food or alcohol advertising.

Instead, parents should make sure their children don’t get exposed to these ads. And if they do – which is hard to avoid – parents must teach their children how to deal with marketing techniques.

The industry states their influence over children isn’t that big anyway, so why worry? Besides, they may say, complaints about advertising are really about the products and companies, and ads in itself are not the issue.

The purchasing power of kids

Although children wield power over their parents’ shopping behaviour, their critical judgement lags behind, and this makes kids vulnerable to marketing strategies.

The American Academy of Pediatrics says:

“Research has shown that young children – younger than eight years – are cognitively and psychologically defenseless against advertising.They do not understand the notion of intent to sell and frequently accept advertising claims at face value.”

According to experts it takes until the age of eleven or twelve before children understand the persuasive nature of advertising.

Why advertising is unhealthy

Our kids are overweight, drink too much alcohol, and may not live as long as their parents. Unhealthy habits are often taken into adulthood: Obese children are likely to become obese adults and parents. For a dramatic example, have a look at the video below.

Australian children between the ages of five and twelve are able to correctly match at least one sport with its relevant sponsor, according to a report by the Australian Alcohol Review Board.

We know that advertising is effective in getting young people to start drinking, or to drink more if they already use alcohol.

So here are 3 reasons to stop marketing to children:

  1. Advertising teaches children to want what they don’t need
  2. Advertising encourages kids to make unhealthy purchasing decisions
  3. Advertising promotes materialistic values

Although I’m usually not in favour of more legislation, I feel we urgently need regulatory changes to protect our kids.

P.s. Journalist and writer Greg Foyster, whom I quoted above, quit his job in advertising and went on to live a basic and sustainable life. His well-researched book Changing Gears: A Pedal-Powered Detour from the Rat Race is worth a read.

Follow me on Twitter: @EdwinKruys

One thought on “3 reasons why marketing to children is unhealthy

  1. I agree – we should stop people with vested, no opposite, interests to us from influencing our children. But let’s also look at what we are doing. The food we are serving in our school canteens gives our kids the message: this food is ok to eat. Often it is very unhealthy, and shouldn’t be eaten even once a week. The canteen guidelines also don’t take sugar into account!
    You may not agree with Sarah Wilson’s suggestion of quitting sugar entirely (I personally think it is over the top), but it is certainly worth asking our government to update the old Canteen guidelines!
    http://iquitsugar.com/join-sarah-wilsons-canteen-campaign/

    Liked by 1 person

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