In 2004, the American Psychological Association asked the government to ban ads on TV shows aimed at children age nine and under, since, the APA argued, those kids don't quite comprehend that the ads persuade a person into buying something that may not be beneficial for them. However, if the product or message is good for the child, then TV advertisements increase awareness and education on certain hazards to health. Public service announcements and encouragements to engage in physical exercise can be beneficial for kids.
The Children's Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative
In 2006, in response to complaints about the types of products being advertised to children, marketing companies made a voluntary agreement to limit unhealthy food ads that targeted children under 11. The number of ads to which children were exposed that highlighted foods decreased by 18 percent for very young kids and 7 percent for those ages six to eleven. However, 86 percent of children's advertising still featured foods high in sugar, saturated fat and sodium.
Positive Ads for Kids
Advertisements for fruits and vegetables would likely have a beneficial effect on kids. So, too, would advertisements that encourage children to go outside and exercise. A good example is the NFL’s Play 60 campaign, which during football games implores youth to exercise for an hour every day to help counteract the epidemic of childhood obesity.
Public Service Announcements
Public service announcements aimed at kids can frequently be found on children's TV and on the Internet. These PSAs cover a myriad of subjects, from the importance of wearing a bicycle helmet to the essentialness of reading to dealing with bullies. In Canada, the group Concerned Children's Advertisers have produced some 40 PSAs aimed at children in the past two decades. Though not exclusively targeting children, NBC’s PSA series “The More You Know” has, since 1989, aired ads promoting diversity, education, health and the environment, featuring both NBC stars and notable Americans, such as President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, who starred in an anti-childhood obesity PSA. Some of these PSAs air during Saturday morning programming, when children are more likely to be watching.
For a lark on a rainy afternoon, have your kids explore the Internet to see ads targeted to children generations ago for products such as Campbell's soup and Beechnut gum. The Cheerios Kid, for instance, had “go power” from the cereal, and would either rescue his girlfriend or the entire community.
Jeffrey Billman is both an experienced and accomplished journalist with national awards for everything from investigative reporting to religion reporting to humor and opinion columns. A student of government and politics, he holds a master's degree in public policy analysis.