Week 10 – Kids Kids Kids!

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?


8 thoughts on “Week 10 – Kids Kids Kids!

  1. This blog demonstrated the characteristics of children as a consumer target group. But in my opinion, the entire procedure of consuming includes perspective, cognitive and motivation. As you mentioned, children have their own perspective and the cognitive is easily impacted by media or new information they obtain from others. But the most important thing is, children are not able to achieve purchasing behaviour without parents’ permission.This means that, even though children have some characteristics of consumer, they still could not consume rely on their independent ideas. Thus, in my opinion, children could only be the secondary consumer group which are affilated to their parents.

  2. Interesting blog! Of course it is not ethical to advertise children as consumers, but as we have established in Marketing Strategy: they are the ones pestering their parents, who have less time for their children, an increased bad conscience and therefore will be more likely to buy the products for their children.

    Actually, the paper that was discussed in the THINK meeting last Tuesday dealt exactly with the same topic. There was a research done on the relationship of food advertising and eating behaviour on children. Children were to watch a short movie that was interrupted by food advertisements. It showed that the children that saw the food advertisements (compared to toy advertisements) ate 30% more snacks than the control group (Harris, Bargh& Brownell, 2009). It confirms the findings of (Hastings et al.,2003) that concluded that food advertisements lead to an increased preference and purchase of the products advertised, in children as well as adults.

    I do agree with you that the advertising industry is very powerful and partially responsible for the rising consumerism. It is one of the richest industries in contemporary society for a reason!

  3. I definitely agree with you that children are able to be influenced, even at such a young age. I can recall being influenced by bright colours and sounds on advertisements as a child with the ability to recognise that they were for my age group, being played everyday afterschool before Art Attack. I then could relay this information to my parents who now knew what product choice to make for my birthday or Christmas. It was also the same in supermarkets where I was able to choose my favourite cereal and lunchbox treat. Okay, so it wasn’t a massive influence, but I doubt my parents would have made such choices otherwise. Companies are now wise to this and you wont have to look far to see an engaging marketing campaign that will guide your child’s choice next time you do the weekly shop.

    This is also supported by Wilson and Wood (2004) who have explored the influence of children in supermarket shopping. They state, “children can be seen as forming, first, a primary market; second, as influencers on their parents’ decision making; and third, as potential future adult consumers” going on to say “the results showed that children have a significant influence on supermarket product purchases”. Today, we can even see campaigns that target both parent and child which is also a point to add, which will allow the parent to furthermore support the child’s choice. Its interesting, that you’ve covered consumer psychology from a child’s perspective as I don’t think enough emphasis is placed on this area. Great blog, great read. : )

  4. In my opinions, treating children as targeting consumer is not ethical, because children have not mutual value. They are always easily influenced by advertising, and cannot distinguish what is right and what is wrong. Whether it is ethical about advertising aimed at children is controversial. In Sweden it is considered unacceptable and is banned for children under 12. In France advertisements are seen as part of preparing children in a consumer society. However, in the UK, advertising be considered would harm to children physically, mentally (PPU information, 2012). And Children’s reaction to advertisement can be very diverse from grown-ups. For example, when children develop the ability to understand advertisements and their purpose they start making demands, if demands are not satisfied they would scream. That might affect adults troublesome.

  5. A nice topic! I do notice that even though children do not have real purchasing ability, they have strong influences on their parents or others to purchase stuffs instead of them. Since you mentioned that the reason kids tend to consume that much is the inadequate cognition, I want to add some more. Firstly, children have different perceptions with advertisements and other stuffs. They have different preference. To this point, color can be a purchasing driver. Children probably can be more positively influenced by bright colors. Odd and interesting stuffs can also influence children’s purchasing intention, since curiosity is a key driver of children’s desire for different toys or other products.

  6. Actually, children have been targeted as consumers for a long time. Those various toys, food, clothes are all designed for children and regard children as their main consumer group. Undoubtedly, more companies lay emphasis on children and make ads which are attractive for children in order to persuade their purchase. Based on those researches introduced in your blog, I find the problem of children’s cognitive abilities is worth thinking about. Children under eight lack the cognitive skills to understand the persuasive intent of television and online advertisements, which makes them vulnerable (Calvert, 2008). Since compared with decades before children are exposed to the modern world earlier now, it may be an inevitable trend to target children as consumers. However, parents’ guidance is essential. Parents should know how to reject their children’s requirements properly, and explain information appearing on the media to them as often as possible. From the other side, sellers should take children’s ability of cognition into consideration, and make sure that advertisements are not too exaggerated and persuasive.

  7. Nice blog!
    I have been ignored with the children target group, since I saw the author’s blog. Thanks for sharing it. Now the price of children’s products are expensive, and kids in the growth period, there update speed is fast. There is a large number of costs. In addition, now the children have their own personality. My younger sister is only 6 years old, but she has begun to choose her clothes and shoes by herself. But children are unable to buy production, the decision making is rely on parents. So I think children target market actually is also aimed to young parents’ market.

  8. Thinking of the guardians’ responses of demanding children who may or may not throw tantrums, it remains me of the laughs that occur in lectures sometimes when peer pressure is mentioned as a behaviour changer, which can be true (Kandel & Lazear, 1992). I think those laughs suggested that peer pressure is a bad thing. This makes me consider the distress of the guardians of those children from being pressured in such ways further. Hence, these adverts may be causing/increasing people’s distress?


    Kandel, E., & Lazear, E. P. (1992).Peer pressure and partnerships. Journal of Political Economy, 100, 801-817. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/2138688

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