Child MarketingIs Marketing to Children Ethical?Denise Phillips Getting in the minds of ourchildren and the ethical choices being made. The harmful effects of marketing to children, what we are teaching ourchildren in the way of health as well as values. As parents we all want our children to growup healthy and happy and have great success in life but at the same time weallow marketers to influence children in the most subtle yet harmful ways. Government policies should be enacted tomonitor advertising to children.
Children typically view 40,000television commercial a year, then include other medial this number mayactually be much higher, even up to 3000 a day. (Vitelli) According to Roger Desmond of the University of Harford and Rod Carvethof Morgan State University, there are three different ways in which advertisingcan influence children. The first beingattention, the techniques in which the ads are presented are meant to hold thechildren’s attention. Second is being able to tell the difference between theactual television programs and the commercials, children have not developed thecognitive tools to be able to decipher between the two.
Last is what is real, young children don’t alwaysknow the difference between reality and fantasy or basically what the media isshowing them. (Preiss) One of the areas of marketing is that of food andnon-alcoholic beverages. From thepackaging to the popularity of food, kids will typically go for all the wrongfoods. Fast food is quick and easy andeveryone else is going to the fast food place down the street. (Nestle) Food marketing tactics includes an endlessamount of avenues including: toys, loyalty incentives, popular cartoonendorsements, TV endorsements and websites that are “Just for kids” featuringinteractive games that immersing children in a product-orientedenvironment. Candy, soda, sugar cerealand fast food, these are all items in which food advertising, in mediaaddressed to youth, promotes the least-healthy products consumers can buy.(Kunkel)In a 2010 study, the World Health Organization noted thatbeing overweight and obesity ranked as the fifth leading risk of deathglobally.
These numbers included morethan 42 million children under that age of fiveyears old. Furthermore the study showedbeing overweight as a child would increase the chances of obesity as an adult,adding other health issues such as hypertension and insulin resistance. (World Health Organization)Another area of marketing that is directly aimed towardchildren is toys and video games. Christmas lists and birthday wishes most people grew up with parentstelling their children to write a list of desires, so where do kids get theideas of things they desire? While marketing certainly can help childrenprepare these innocent little tasks to help parents know the desires of theirchildren, this is also providing children the power of spending and influenceon adults. Video games has become alarge concern, many people ask the question of how video games influence thethinking of children. Does a game suchas Tetris, a game which provides intellectual sport requiring strategy to makeorder out of chaos, lead to being like Albert Einstein? Does a game like Super Modern Mario Brothers,a world of blood and exploding creatures lead to school shootings? The concerns of marketing electronic games tochildren under 17 has raised enough questions that the Government has placedrestriction on the marketing of these items.
Video game rating and minimization of advertising mature content tominor children has improved, and although there is no link between violentvideo games and violent behavior, there is a link between violent games andbehavior in general. (Marketing ViolentEntertainment to Children)There are multiple ethical perspectives to look at whendiscussing marketing. From theContextual Players which include: Themarketing manager, parents and children, to the Ethical Frameworks being thatof utilitarian, universalism, rights ethic, virtue ethic and care ethic.
Marketing manager view: Utilitarian: Marketing childrenwill most likely result in greater spending, ultimately benefitting the economyby providing employment and corporate funding. Universalism: Fast food companiesdo not advertise with the intent of people eating the Big Mac or Whopper everyday or every meal. The basic intentionsof these companies is that of a treat. The responsibility of how much is consumedis that of the consumer, and when the consumer is children, that responsibilityshould be that of the parents. RightsEthic: Companies do not start up with the intent of failing, the intent is tomaximize their profits.
Even thoughchildren do not typically have money to help produce profit, the parents do andcompany managements understand that children have the ability to persuadeparents. Maximizing profits satisfiesboth the owner and the stakeholders. Virtue Ethic: The consumer hasthe choice. Although the company mayprovide marketing to children, the bottom line is what parents feed and buytheir children is not the responsibility of the company.
If the companies’ intentions stay in theethical boundaries, then they should not be held accountable for what theconsumer/parents purchase. (Kramer)From the parents perspective: Utilitarian: Parents see that the companies are marketing their children, both in thefast food market as well as lower priced brand products. So if the brand is a popular fast food chainwith a dollar menu, parents on a low budget could certainly purchase maybe notso healthy choices, based on the fact they need to feed their family. Universalism: Do marketing companies manipulate the situation by marketing to childrenknowing parents will give in, then turn around and say it is the parents’responsibility? Right Ethic: Parents have the right to raise theirchildren in a society that will not produce so many marketing strategies aimedtoward their children.
Virtue Ethic: There are some companies with goodintentions, companies which provide useful, life enhancing products forchildren. Care Ethic: Parents know thattheir children are very vulnerable and it is hard to be the parent who isalways telling your child no. (Kramer)The American Psychological Association taskforce on advertising to children can be a large player in working towardslegislative action to begin changing the laws and government policies whichapply to marketing to children.
Thereshould be further research on the effect of advertising to children both theeffects of what is does to the adults as well as the effects on the children. (Easterling, Debbie, et al) Whilethe government has put restrictions on the marketing of video games tochildren, there should be policies put in place which would monitor otheradvertising to children such as food, toys, and brand name “must haves”.