In an article by Ted Lampert, President, Children Now “Childhood obesity fueled by marketing tactics” in the San Francisco Chronical April 27 2005.
“Every day our children are bombarded with advertisements — quite often for products that are harmful to them. Each year, the average child sees about 40,000 commercials on television alone, according to communications professor Dale Kunkel of the University of Arizona; the majority of ads targeted at them are for candy, sugared cereal, soda and fast food.
While parents may actually be the ones paying the price for all of this advertising at the cash register, our children are paying with their health. In addition to the social stigma and psychological effects that overweight children often suffer, they are also significantly more likely than their peers to become afflicted with serious health problems such as asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure and sleep apnea. In fact, the U.S. Surgeon General has identified overweight and obesity as “the fastest growing cause of disease and death in America.”
Parents paying at the cash register is where the problem lies in my opinion, in my first article on this topic i stressed that the parents should take more responsibility. Kids are spoilt these days, given huge allowances and no action is taken to see where and how kids spend their money. “Mommy I want”, and the kid gets. Yes marketing is persuasive but i still feel that this type of marketing can only work if the parents are suckered into it. Sure kids will see the the funky adverts for sugar and spice and all things nice but are the real persuasive tactics used by the kids to convince parents to buy the advertised products. Advertising is not the biggest enemy, they should take some of the blame. Ultimately parents need to be the ones more strict.
My dad always said to me after giving me my small allowance, “Son, get a purchase slip for everything you purchase”. This way he could see what I was buying with my ‘washing the car cash’. If i could not produce a slip that money would be deducted from my next allowance. Running kids like a business made sure that i made the correct choices.
The protection of our kids is vital for the future of a country, making sure they are mentally and physically fit is of the utmost importance. The role of advertisers should be more controlled, no more advertising of less than desirable products during kids programs is a start. The rest has to be up to the parents, this is ultimately where the buck stops.
Ted Lampert wrote,”Many advertisers prey upon children’s vulnerability by disguising their advertisements as online games or by using product placement to sneak them into prime-time shows. It is through television, computers and video games that perhaps the most insidious attempts to manipulate children’s eating habits occur. It is where food advertisers spend billions of dollars each year pushing unhealthy cereals, snacks and drinks through commercials and product placements aimed at children; where beloved cartoon characters shill for fast- food chains (such as Burger King’s use of Teletubbies and SpongeBob); and where advertisements for cookies and candy are disguised as arcade-style games. It is where broadcasters and advertisers put their own financial well-being above the health of our children.”
I don’t mind my kids taking a liking to advertising tactics where Teletubies and SpongeBob is involved, they know that junk food only happens once a month. As young adults we lived our life on the wire all the time, but when my kids arrived the social responsibility towards them increased. Knowing the pitfalls of advertising, illegal use of drugs, alcohol and everything else that kids could come into contact with was high on ‘the 101 of raising kids agenda’.
The increase in product competition the world over will see more and more sly and subtle advertising tactics being used. I personally do not see it changing to any other way. Why should any product not sell if it openly states that it is bad for your health, as in the case of branding on cigarette packs, people still buy ‘smokes’. The good thing about cigarette companies in South africa they are not allowed to openly sponsor events or place their adverts in any public advertising material.
Take an important decision about what your kids come into contact with and use your own subtle tactics to steer them on the right path. We, as parents have a social responsibility towards them, keep in mind that your kids these days might fall victim to more sinister things than unhealthy burgers sold by SpongeBoB and the rest of his gang.