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Television And Today's Youth

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Television and Today’s Youth

Television and Today’s Youth

In today’s world, violent and sexy television is seen as normal, everyday programming. Parents constantly have to monitor what their children are viewing. What happens when the television hurting your children isn’t the programming? What happens when the media doing the damage is actually the commercials spliced between those carefully chosen shows? Surely, parents cannot watch everything!

In the average year, the advertising industry spends and up to $12 billion dollars on ads specifically targeted toward children (Linn, 2004). A great many of the advertising dollars spent toward the child demographic are pumped directly into television ads, although it has seen a slight decreased with advertising companies starting to spend more revenue on internet advertising. It is estimated that the average child will be exposed to over 40,000 commercials during a years worth of viewing, that boils down to almost 100 commercials every four hours.

When thinking about how many commercials our children are faced with daily, you start to ponder what they could possibly contain. What on earth could possibly take up so much time? First and foremost, it appears that advertisements for fast food, junk food, and sugary cereals account for many of the commercials our children are exposed to. In an independent study conducted on three different networks, using 95 half-hour increments, comprised of preschool programming, found that 130 junk food ads were shown and over half of them were aimed at children. Think of it, your preschooler tells you they want a Happy MealÐ'® out of the middle of nowhere. Not many people stop to think that maybe the television their children are watching is what is causing their odd craving.

In the past few years, childhood obesity rates have exploded along with the number of fast food commercials that have appeared on television. In April, the U.S. Trade Commission actually requested information from 44 different food, drink, and fast food companies so they could examine how their advertising may be directed towards children (Thompson & MacArthur, 2007). Studies have also shown that children, who are exposed to more television, tend to eat more junk food than adults (Strasburger, 2002) due to children not having the skills to recognize that advertising is make-believe (Comstock, 1991), a simple marketing tool.

The fast food industry has been hasty to try and comply with many of the APA’s requests, fearing a backlash; they are just wondering when enough will be enough. Many people associated with the industry believe that politicians, the APA and the public cannot be satisfied. A fast food executive has claimed focusing on their industry in direct correlation with obesity is “a witch hunt”. He went on to say that “if anyone is to be picked as a scapegoat it’s likely to be the fast feeder.” (Thompson & MacArthur, Obesity fear frenzy grips food industry, Ð'¶3) A lawyer for fast food and soft drink companies agrees. Ron Urbach states, “the more you probe, the more you’ll find.” Even the Senator of Kansas, Sam Brownback, thinks that the inquiries have drawn on long enough and that advertising cannot be held responsible for all of the country’s obesity issues.

Not only are commercials changing kid’s eating habits; they are also changing their buying habits. Children as young as age three are starting to recognize different brands of merchandise. It is estimated that brand loyalty can actually start to change what children ask for as far as clothing and toys between the ages of 2 and 3. According to a leading expert in brand advertising, 80% of all globally known brands are deploying a “tween” strategy (Hulbert, 2004). An overwhelming number of children have actually admitted to feeling a great sense of pressure about the type of merchandise they purchase because their friends or other classmates buy a certain brand. The Center for a New American Dream (2002) found that over 50% of kids say that wearing a certain brand of clothing makes them feel better about themselves.

Not all of this spending just means more money out of the parent’s pocket, it also means more aggravation. The Center for a New American Dream found that “more than 10% of 12 to 13 yr olds admitted to asking their parents more than 50 times for a product they had seen advertised.” As a result of the commercialization of today’s youth we are seeing a larger number of kids leaving school



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