Children and Television Advertising

Children Interacting
with Television Advertising


The following research has sought to understand the influence of television on children over the past twenty years using a variety of social models, from public policy and industry self-regulation, to how children receive and process media messages and the parental responsibility in monitoring what is acceptable for children to view.

As a baseline, our research used a model of children interacting with television. We expounded on this model in an effort to seek current data and information that affects children today. Our group divided this model into the following categories:

· Decision to View Television
·Public Policy Makers
·Consumer Protectionists
·Industry Self-Regulation
·Television Advertising Message
·Receiving and Processing Message

After analyzing this model, we conducted our own research to study current trends and determine whether childrens’ behavior has changed significantly in the past 20 years.

Our empirical research includes studies in contemporary advertising techniques, changes in children’s television viewing preferences, and the relationship to childhood development. Each category explains a different element of the process of how children interpret and act upon the medias influence.

The Decision to View Television and Parental Influence

Today, children in the United States watch an average of 3 to 5 hours of television every day, and up to an average of 24 hours of television a week. Did you know that on average, children will see 576 or more commercials each week? Children’s programming devotes up to 12 hours to advertising a week.

Research has demonstrated that the effect of television viewing on children leads to a number of possible problems. Television affects social and emotional behavior, creativity and language skills, and school achievement. There is an organization out there in support of children and parents who are concerned with the way television is being viewed. The name of this organization is CARU, Children’s Advertising Review Unit, and it is an industry supported self-regulatory system of the children’s advertising industry. “CARU works with the industry to ensure that advertising directed to kids is truthful, and above all fair.” (Better Business Bureau) The purpose of CARU is to maintain a balance between controlling the message children receive from advertising, and promoting the important information to children through advertising. Another organization working towards controlling advertising towards children is the “Children’s Television Act of 1990 who limited advertising on children’s programs to 10.5 minutes per hour on weekends and 12 minutes per hour on weekdays.” ( Food advertising makes up the largest category of advertisements directed towards children. Breakfast cereals and fast food restaurants account for over half of all food advertisements aimed at children. In the United States less than one percent of advertisements were for healthier foods such as fruit and vegetables.

There are three advertising methods, which are the most popular with advertisers. The first form of advertising is called premiums and has been around since Dick Tracy decoder rings and Little Orphan Annie stickers, over 50 years. The problem with this form of advertising is that children have difficulty telling the difference between the actual product and the premium, or in other words, the prize. The second popular form of advertising to children is through sweepstakes. Children find this very exciting, and in turn this raises children’s expectations of their chances of winning a prize. Most young children have trouble realizing that not every child wins and so sweepstakes usually require some form of parent involvement. The last form of advertisements that is geared toward children is what we call “Kids Clubs”. For an advertiser to use the word “club” a few requirements need to be met. Interactivity needs to be met which means that a child should perform some kind of an action to join the club, and in return receives a reward, membership to the club. Also continuity needs to be performed, this is an ongoing relationship between the club members either through a newsletter or some other interaction with the members.

Parents can guide their children’s television viewing in many ways. First, parents should set limits to the amount of TV a child should watch in a given day. Because television watching is often habit, 1 to 2 hours a day should be enough. An easy way to accomplish this would be to set a few basic rules, such as no television during meals,