Research Paper: Images of children from advertising

Images of Children from Advertising


Advertising and children have developed out of the main concern on impact of commercialism to children lives and relation of marketing as well as advertising to children (Sheehan, 2013). For various decades, children have been noted to be off limits by advertisers whereby parents have been the target audience for the marketers who used to deliver goods to this group. However, in the recent times, children especially the young children have now been a direct target audience by the advertisers (Sheehan, 2013). There are many groups that are within and out of this organized psychology that have talked about such advertising behaviors (Burt & Strongman, 2005). Some of the key considerations of this issue are:

  • Examining the impact of advertising to children and families
  • Examining impact of advertising to social and cognitive children development mainly on the sensitive issues such as culture, gender and ethnicity
  • Examining the potential application as well as misuse of the research and roles of psychologists to adverts
  • Examining the existing developmental and social factors that do contribute toward children vulnerability and image from advertising
  • Providing recommendations to roles that may be played by psychologists in aiding the parents and schools to teach about media literacy skills to the young ones
  • To demarcate potential roles that would impact public policies that are related with aspect image of children from advertising (Burt & Strongman, 2005).



Findings about Images of Children from Advertising

According to literature, advertising is a hard but recent human undertaking. In metrics of an industry, advertising took off after the arrival of various media platforms such as radio, television and printing (Sheehan, 2013). However, issues related to advertising that target children heralded television and radio. It is worth to note that, the British Parliament was forced to pass Legislation in year 1874 aimed toward protection of children from merchants who were inducing them to make purchases of products and assumed debts (Kenway & Bullen, 2003).

Commercial adverts appeals to the children, was not a commonplace pending the advection and the process of adopting television that grew dramatically after invention of  cable television that was allowing the programmers to develop channels that were child oriented commercial and advertising (Kenway & Bullen, 2003). As well, chances to advertise to children enlarged after the explosive development of internet with various websites that were child oriented with advert contents.

Integrating the growth of channels for adverts that were targeting the young children has marked another major development through privatization of the children media application. According to one of the recent study, it has stated that children in the US have television in their bedrooms (Kenway & Bullen, 2003). In addition, many of the US children have unsupervised access to the computers, which indicates that many of the media and the advertising content that are viewed by children re absent of parental guidance, supervision and monitoring (Sheehan, 2013).

These marks two common trends on the growth of advertising channels that reach children and privatize the children media application that have caused drastic increment with direct intention of eyes and ears of young ones. According t available reports, there are estimates that advertisers are spending almost $12 billion annually targeting the young market and children are able to view almost 400,000 commercial yearly (Sheehan, 2013).

Advertising and Cognitive Development

There are two significant information processing undertakings that are required by any individuals to ensure there is achievement of mature understanding of the advert message.  Firstly, such individuals are expected to make distinction of the commercial and the noncommercial substance. This means that the individuals need capacity of distinguishing the adverts from the programs (Kenway & Bullen, 2003). According to research about children, it shows that children aged between 4-5 have no capacity of distinguishing between programs and the commercials even after using the program and commercial separation devices. After children reach the age of 4-5 years, they have a typical way of perceiving category distinction between the programs and commercial by mainly on the aspect of effective or perceptual cues (Kenway & Bullen, 2003).

The other significant cognitive task that related with mature recognition of adverts is capacity of recognizing the persuasion intention of adverts and applying knowledge toward children understanding of advert messages. This means that, mature influential message is intended to incorporate recognition that is held by advertiser and intention of advertisers to persuade the audience and purchase the products (Kenway & Bullen, 2003). According to the development research on perspective undertaking, there are great evidence that explore the development difference for persuasive adverts and indicate that children young than 8 years are not able to recognize the persuasive intention of commercial appeals (Calvert, 2008).

However, there no research that explore at what age will children will start recognizing aspect that advert messages may be biased or when they will start developing strategies that would offset bias within such messages. However, the fact is that, all these abilities depend upon the child development of capacity of understanding persuasive intention of adverts which indicates mature understanding of adverts occurring earlier than the age of 8 (Calvert, 2008). In addition, there is the need for further investigation connected with the upper age boundary for the children who tends to be exclusive susceptible to the commercial persuasion which is a function of the normal development restraints to processing f information capacities. Despite this, there is strong base on empirical evidence that young children aged below 8 lack clear understanding persuasive intention created by the television adverts (Sheehan, 2013).

Effects of Advertising to Children

According to literature, there is indication that commercial recall and product preferences noting that adverts are capable of achieving the intended effect. However, there are various studies that have used different methodologies and have found that children are able to recall the contents made from ads which they have been exposed to (Calvert, 2008). Actually, product preference is noted to occur with simple commercial exposure which direct to repeated exposures. Most significantly, according to research it has been shown that aspect of product preference has an impact to the children product purchases and such requests do not impact their parent purchase decisions (Calvert, 2008).

The more significant aspect in regard to the effect of advertising to the children is related with question on potential harm that may be as a result of exposure. According to various researches, they have been open and relevant to this issue. For example, various studies have indicated that parent and child conflicts have been occurring in most times in case the parents decline the children purchase request that have been drove by advertising. In addition, there are considerable researches that have examined the advertising cumulative impact toward the children consumption behaviors (Nairn & Fine, 2008).

According to the studies, they have shown that there are many adverts that are targeting the children with features of candy; snacks, fast foods and the exposure to such have increased the consumption of such products (Kunkel, et al 2004). However, the consumption of the non-nutrition food per se has not been detrimental; the overconsumption of the product mainly on exclusion of health food tends to be connected with obesity and poor health. As set out by various literatures, there is strong connection between increased adverts for non-nutritious food and the rate of child obesity (Kunkel, et al 2004).

As well, several literatures have been able to highlight substantial relation between the children who view tobacco and alcohol adverts end their positive move toward consuming such products. According to the research, children find such adverts on such product quite attractive hence developing positive attitude (Kunkel, et al 2004). These are products with spoke characters traced to have features with publication and programming with frequent view from the children which conclude that advertising make them develop youthful smoking and taking of alcohol. In addition, there are critics that express concern in prevalence of advert for the violent media such as the movies and vide games all targeting the children (Moore & Lutz, 2000).

Commercialism and Schools

There is the need to have a consideration to commercialism in schools. The first reason tends to be the fact that children do spend substantial amount of their childhood time in the school set up and due to the aspect that school attendance is a must, children have little freedom associated with avoidance of adverts they get exposed to while in schools (Sheehan, 2013). Another reason is that, it is imaginable that the adverts that are conveyed in school are assumed to poses tacit endorsement for the respected tutors and the school management hence enhancement of effective commercials (Kunkel, et al 2004).

However, there are various recent literatures that have highlighted on the extent to which the growth of advert as well as other marketing activities are in school incorporating significant studied. Actually, the process of advertising and marketing do take various forms (Sheehan, 2013). It may be either direct advertising in classrooms using the audio programs; indirect advertising using the corporate sponsored education materials, product sales engagements with snack and soda companies, and the school based corporate marketing research (Kunkel, et al 2004). Some of the adverting and marketing activities tend to be undertaken aggressively by schools as a main source of other revenue but such activities have been welcomed by individuals outside the school system (Livingstone & Helsper, 2006).

Public Policy Implications

According to literature, there are indications that advertising and commercialization do exert considerable influence to the children behaviors and attitudes which impact the desire of moving form one product to the other (Sheehan, 2013). In general, the evidence has a direct point toward the crucial concerns indicating that adverts that target children aged below 8 years tends to be intrinsically unjust since it take advantage of the young children incapacity of attributing persuasion intention of the advert (Gunter, Oates & Blades, 2004).

Due to the limitations, children aged below this age tend to understand the information delivered by television commercial uncritically. As well, they tend to accept most of the advert claims and appeals and consider them as truthful, unbiased and accurate. However, recently, the advertisers have viewed such children to be off limit of the adverts targets with industrial practice changes since new developments in media have facilitated age-niche programs and other connected advertising (Cortese, 2015).

Concern related with aspect of fairness set to target the children has not been a new development. According to research, it is indicated to have started back in 1960s. In 1970s, Federal Communication Commission made a proposal of banning adverts that targeted children. However, it agreed upon a modest policy which was limiting the amount of advert time in which the children program and would restrict the advert practices would make it challenging for the children to have attributions on persuasion intention (Calvert, 2008).

In addition, in the same period, Federal Trade Commission targeted to ban all television adverts to children considering the exact type of development research (Kunkel, et al 2004). According to Congress response on the television and advert industrial pressure, FTC was forced to decline the proposal while it was threatened not to receive the agency funds. However, FTC dropped the consideration of restricting adverts to the children but it stated in the final order that this issue need to remain as a public concern considering the scientific evidence that document children to be unique vulnerable to commercial persuasion (Sheehan, 2013).


In the view of various literature cited, it may be concluded that there is psychological evidence that is maintain crucial implication toward public policies. The vigor of the research that document about children limited capacity of recognizing and defending themselves from the television adverts has progressed since 1970 after consideration of restricting the adverts targeting children as their audiences. There are believes that accumulation of evidence to this topic of Image of Children from advertising has currently been persuasive and it warrant the regulation to be undertaken by the government toward protection of children interest. Hence, the government needs to provide recommendation that restrict advertising to children with recognition of the advertising persuasion intention. Implementing such action policy would place the country in  god company with other that have adopted regulation that prohibit adverts programs that target children.



Burt, C. D., & Strongman, K. (2005). Use of images in charity advertising: Improving donations and compliance rates. International Journal of Organisational Behaviour, 8(8), 571-580.

Calvert, S. L. (2008). Children as consumers: Advertising and marketing. The future of children, 18(1), 205-234.

Cortese, A. J. (2015). Provocateur: Images of women and minorities in advertising. Rowman & Littlefield.

Gunter, B., Oates, C., & Blades, M. (2004). Advertising to children on TV: Content, impact, and regulation. Routledge.

Kenway, J., & Bullen, J. (2003). Consuming children: Education-entertainment-advertising. British Educational Research Journal, 29(2), 267-276.

Kunkel, D., Wilcox, B. L., Cantor, J., Palmer, E., Linn, S., & Dowrick, P. (2004). Report of the APA task force on advertising and children. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Livingstone, S., & Helsper, E. J. (2006). Does advertising literacy mediate the effects of advertising on children? A critical examination of two linked research literatures in relation to obesity and food choice. Journal of communication, 56(3), 560-584.

Moore, E. S., & Lutz, R. J. (2000). Children, advertising, and product experiences: A multimethod inquiry. Journal of Consumer Research, 27(1), 31-48.

Nairn, A., & Fine, C. (2008). Who’s messing with my mind? The implications of dual-process models for the ethics of advertising to children. International Journal of Advertising, 27(3), 447-470.

Sheehan, K. B. (2013). Controversies in contemporary advertising. Sage Publications.

find the cost of your paper