How many hours a week do your kids watch television? According to The Nielsen Company, kids ages 2-5 spend more than 32 hours a week in front of the TV screen, while 6- to 11- year-olds spend about 28 hours a week.
And those statistics don’t factor in time spent on computers or smart phones or other media platforms.
What all those hours add up to is lots and lots of ads. Children are bombarded with advertisements for everything from the latest tech gadget to the newest twist on Classic Coke. Few if any of those ads are about getting outside to exercise or spending time reading.
According to Maanasi, a blogger on momjunction.com, there are a number of potentially harmful effects of advertising on children. They include:
• Advertisements encourage children to ask their parents to buy the products they see in commercials, regardless of whether they need them or not.
• Children are likely to focus on the negatives rather than the positive side of the messages.
• Flashy ads on TV, the Internet, magazines, etc. create a tendency for impulse shopping.
• Many advertisements involve dangerous stunts, which children imitate as they do not understand the warnings that come with the ads.
• With so many attractive commercials marketing junk foods and sugary beverages, these ads encourage unhealthy eating, which in turn has led to an increase in obesity, diabetes, heart problems and other conditions in young children.
• Child advertising may impact self-esteem, making kids feel inferior to their peers if they do not have the latest products seen in commercials.
• Sexually suggestive ads make children objectify women and allow them to think that looking or acting a certain way is the only way to make friends or be popular.
Although parents and other who care about kids can always organize and protest against deleterious commercials, I think that the advertising of everyday life might be even more effective.
The advertising of everyday life is comprised of those homespun messages that parents, grandparents and other caregivers pass along to their children. Almost everyone can think of one or two from our growing up years. I believe that parents and other caring adults can be just as clever as Madison Avenue.
My mom, an antiques dealer known in the business as Antique Evelyn, was a businesswoman and collector of old advertising signs and tins. When I was about 12, Antique Evelyn brought home an old sign that read: “None of us in our business or social life can coast along on a reputation of past performances. It’s the good job we do today that counts.”
She framed the sign and placed it in a strategic place in the bathroom—just behind the toilet. This way my younger brother and I (and our dad) would come eye-to-eye with the sign several times a day, every day, year in and year out. According to my own calculations I read her “advertisement” at least 5,000 times during my teenage years.
Coaches have motivational slogans, preachers have spiritual sermons, teachers have instructional lessons and my mom had not-so-subliminal signs. These are the advertisements of everyday life. Some people might refer to this as imparting values.
Oh, and about mom’s sign; it hangs in my office, right next to my desk where I see it every day.
Andrew Malekoff is the Executive Director of North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center, which provides comprehensive mental health services for children from birth through 24 and their families. To find out more, visit www.northshorechildguidance.org.