I can’t even imagine what a childhood without advertising would be. Boston Magazine writes:
Susan Linn and her tiny but hugely influential nonprofit Boston nonprofit, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, have become a child marketer’s worst nightmare. Just ask Disney, Hasbro, Scholastic, and Kellogg.
The CCFC is concerned with two overlapping issues: the amount of time children spend in front of an ever-growing array of screens — TVs, computers, smartphones, tablets — and the marketing messages they are subjected to while glued to them. Under Linn’s direction, the group has taken on some of the biggest and most powerful corporations in the world. It forced Kellogg to remove SpongeBob SquarePants and other cartoon characters from the packaging of foods that were light on nutritional value. It got Hasbro to shelve plans for a new line of dolls based on the sexpot pop act the Pussycat Dolls (“Don’t cha wish your girlfriend was hot like me?”). And when Linn found out that a Needham company called BusRadio was airing advertisements on school buses, she organized a campaign that led to the demise of the business.
Then there was the CCFC’s action last spring against Scholastic, the world’s largest publisher and distributor of children’s books, and home to such beloved characters as Clifford the Big Red Dog and Harry Potter. Scholastic was distributing fourth-grade learning materials that outlined various sources of power, placing a special emphasis on the virtues of coal. It turned out that the coal industry had paid for and developed the whole thing.
According to James McNeal, professor emeritus at Texas A & M and a pioneering researcher in the field of marketing to children, companies spend around $4.5 billion a year advertising products to children between the ages of 2 and 16. And Kunkel, the University of Arizona professor, says that scientific studies have shown that children under eight cannot understand the persuasive intent of advertising. At a fundamental level, then, advertising to children is simply unfair.
So it’s not surprising that the practice is either banned or restricted in some countries, Sweden, Norway, and Greece among them. When the Federal Trade Commission tried to limit advertising to children in the 1970s in the U.S., it was met with a backlash from corporations and the public. Soon after, Congress reduced the FTC’s powers and restricted its funding.
If anything, the problem is only getting worse. Boston College sociologist Juliet Schor characterizes the past decade as a “race to the bottom in terms of the ethics of advertising to children.”
Read the rest at Boston Magazine
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