Child Marketing

Is Marketing to Children Ethical?

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Denise Phillips










Getting in the minds of our
children and the ethical choices being made. 
The harmful effects of marketing to children, what we are teaching our
children in the way of health as well as values.  As parents we all want our children to grow
up healthy and happy and have great success in life but at the same time we
allow marketers to influence children in the most subtle yet harmful ways.  Government policies should be enacted to
monitor advertising to children.

Children typically view 40,000
television commercial a year, then include other medial this number may
actually be much higher, even up to 3000 a day. (Vitelli) 
According to Roger Desmond of the University of Harford and Rod Carveth
of Morgan State University, there are three different ways in which advertising
can influence children.  The first being
attention, the techniques in which the ads are presented are meant to hold the
children’s attention. Second is being able to tell the difference between the
actual television programs and the commercials, children have not developed the
cognitive tools to be able to decipher between the two.  Last is what is real, young children don’t always
know the difference between reality and fantasy or basically what the media is
showing them. (Preiss)

One of the areas of marketing is that of food and
non-alcoholic beverages.  From the
packaging to the popularity of food, kids will typically go for all the wrong
foods.  Fast food is quick and easy and
everyone else is going to the fast food place down the street. (Nestle)  Food marketing tactics includes an endless
amount of avenues including: toys, loyalty incentives, popular cartoon
endorsements, TV endorsements and websites that are “Just for kids” featuring
interactive games that immersing children in a product-oriented
environment.  Candy, soda, sugar cereal
and fast food, these are all items in which food advertising, in media
addressed to youth, promotes the least-healthy products consumers can buy.

In a 2010 study, the World Health Organization noted that
being overweight and obesity ranked as the fifth leading risk of death
globally.  These numbers included more
than 42 million children under that age


of five
years old.  Furthermore the study showed
being overweight as a child would increase the chances of obesity as an adult,
adding other health issues such as hypertension and insulin resistance.  (World Health Organization)

Another area of marketing that is directly aimed toward
children is toys and video games. 
Christmas lists and birthday wishes most people grew up with parents
telling their children to write a list of desires, so where do kids get the
ideas of things they desire?   While marketing certainly can help children
prepare these innocent little tasks to help parents know the desires of their
children, this is also providing children the power of spending and influence
on adults.  Video games has become a
large concern, many people ask the question of how video games influence the
thinking of children.  Does a game such
as Tetris, a game which provides intellectual sport requiring strategy to make
order out of chaos, lead to being like Albert Einstein?  Does a game like Super Modern Mario Brothers,
a world of blood and exploding creatures lead to school shootings?  The concerns of marketing electronic games to
children under 17 has raised enough questions that the Government has placed
restriction on the marketing of these items. 
Video game rating and minimization of advertising mature content to
minor children has improved, and although there is no link between violent
video games and violent behavior, there is a link between violent games and
behavior in general.  (Marketing Violent
Entertainment to Children)

There are multiple ethical perspectives to look at when
discussing marketing.  From the
Contextual Players which include:  The
marketing manager, parents and children, to the Ethical Frameworks being that
of utilitarian, universalism, rights ethic, virtue ethic and care ethic. 

Marketing manager view: 
Utilitarian:  Marketing children
will most likely result in greater spending, ultimately benefitting the economy
by providing employment and corporate funding. 
Universalism:  Fast food companies
do not advertise with the intent of people eating the Big Mac or Whopper every
day or every meal.  The basic intentions
of these companies is that of a treat. 
The responsibility of how much is

is that of the consumer, and when the consumer is children, that responsibility
should be that of the parents.  Rights
Ethic: Companies do not start up with the intent of failing, the intent is to
maximize their profits.  Even though
children do not typically have money to help produce profit, the parents do and
company managements understand that children have the ability to persuade
parents.  Maximizing profits satisfies
both the owner and the stakeholders. 
Virtue Ethic:  The consumer has
the choice.  Although the company may
provide marketing to children, the bottom line is what parents feed and buy
their children is not the responsibility of the company.  If the companies’ intentions stay in the
ethical boundaries, then they should not be held accountable for what the
consumer/parents purchase. (Kramer)

From the parents perspective:  Utilitarian: 
Parents see that the companies are marketing their children, both in the
fast food market as well as lower priced brand products.  So if the brand is a popular fast food chain
with a dollar menu, parents on a low budget could certainly purchase maybe not
so healthy choices, based on the fact they need to feed their family.  Universalism: 
Do marketing companies manipulate the situation by marketing to children
knowing parents will give in, then turn around and say it is the parents’
responsibility?  Right Ethic:  Parents have the right to raise their
children in a society that will not produce so many marketing strategies aimed
toward their children.  Virtue Ethic:  There are some companies with good
intentions, companies which provide useful, life enhancing products for
children.  Care Ethic: Parents know that
their children are very vulnerable and it is hard to be the parent who is
always telling your child no. (Kramer)

The American Psychological Association task
force on advertising to children can be a large player in working towards
legislative action to begin changing the laws and government policies which
apply to marketing to children.  There
should be further research on the effect of advertising to children both the
effects of what is does to the adults as well as the effects on the children. (Easterling, Debbie, et al)  While
the government has put restrictions on the marketing of video games to
children, there should be policies put in place which would monitor other
advertising to children such as food, toys, and brand name “must haves”.