Children are no longer part of the work force or source of income in the more economically developed countries. In fact, kids nowadays have the ability to purchase, like adults, avid consumers.
In 1997, children were also found to influence the spending of an additional $188 billion in the US (McNeal, 1998). In the UK, the toy industry was estimated to be worth approximately 2 billion pounds (British Toy and Hobby Association, 2007). Apart from the monetary figures mentioned above, children are also dedicated to participate in consumer activities, i.e. watching television, computer, radio and music. On average children watch 2 to 5 hours of television daily, spend around 2 to 3 hours using a computer, and approximately 5 hours listening to music or the radio (Larson & Verma, 1999; Ofcom, 2007; Roberts, Foehr, Rideout * Brodie, 1999). According to the researches’ figures, there is no doubt that children’s social and cognitive skills will be influenced by these activities with the amount of time children spent on them daily.
Piaget’s theory of cognitive development (1936, 1951) establishes that children have limited cognitive abilities in comparison to adults (Ginsburg & Opper, 1988). Children’s cognitive abilities develop throughout their childhood which suggests that the ways kids deal with information they come across with are different to adults. Children tend to focus on different types of stimuli, which mean children misunderstand what they have seen or heard easily.
Children watch around 20,000 ads a year (Kunel & Roberts, 1991). As mentioned earlier, children are different to adults in terms of the information processing abilities. Advertising messages are often believed by children aged younger than 7 or 8 to be simply informative (Isler, Popper & Ward, 1987), and this sort of pattern diminishes once the children become older, i.e. they can tell that the advertisements were trying to persuade them to purchase goods. Then understanding the persuasive techniques used by the advertisers is one thing, and children are less vulnerable to these influences of the messages is another (Christenson, 1982).
When children were exposed to advertisements of products such as toys or other services, they build up the continuous desire to get more goods and that can make parents feel pressured and for those who are lacking of resources economically, it can be very difficult, potentially causing domestic problems. When children do not have their own money to spend, they tend to try and persuade their parents to purchase the goods for them (Tinsley, 2002).
So the conclusion and the question of the blog for this week is, with the “inadequate” abilities of information processing during childhood, is it ethically correct to target children as consumers?
What you guys think?