The Negative Influence of the Media on American Youths

American youths are bombarded with advertising from the outset of their lives and into adulthood. While casual observers may shrug off the billboard here and the commercial there, it would be hard to dismiss the negative impact that such a barrage of advertising can have on young children. Growing up and being subjected to a non-stop influence from the media leads to the development of harmful stereotypes and a lingering impact on ones’ ability to process and filter information. The image chosen for this paper shows a young baby that is covered with logos from a variety of companies in the United States such as McDonaldss, Starbucks, and Windows.

This visual is symbolic of the fact that the average American child will see more than 20,000 commercials each year (Advertising to Children, 2005). While 20,000 different commercials is not vastly different than American adults, it has been found that children are unable to differentiate between truth and advertising. Advertising is much more harmful towards children as they are unable to distinguish between media that is meant to persuade and will therefore accept statements and visual content as facts, and will begin to act upon such persuasions (Haefner, 2009). Haefner asserts this point, “Why do we need to be particularly concerned about advertising of all kinds to children? Children are at a disadvantage in their interactions with television commercials because they lack the sophistication needed to understand differences between commercials and programs and the persuasive intents of commercials.

Years of research on children’s advertising from a cognitive developmental perspective suggest that children think differently than adults and that children of various ages think differently about television advertisements.” Children are also one of the most targeted groups of users that are targeted by marketing agencies due to the fact that young kids have a lot of money spending influence upon their parents. The Advertising Educational Foundation emphasizes this point, “Much is at stake. The children’s market today (through age 12) is estimated to represent $500 billion, consisting of both personal spending of $200 billion–primarily for snacks, soft drinks, entertainment and apparel– and $300 billion in directly-influenced spending in these same categories plus food, toys, health and beauty aids, gifts, accessories and school supplies. Another $500 billion worth of purchases are indirectly influenced in categories such as recreation, technology, vacations, etc.

The spending power of children is, altogether, in the area of $1 trillion.” It has also been found that consumer spending patterns and association with long-term buying habits are formed as a children which encourages the display of habit forming advertising which is detrimental to the health of its viewers. For example, there are a lot of ethical issues around the marketing of unhealthy junk food to children which has been correlated with the increase in childhood obesity in the country. Commercials which promote high sugar, fatty, and salty food helps to lead to a high caloried diet and a cognitive misconception about healthy eating habits in kids (Harris, 2009).

The promotion of fast food on television and kid-accessible media has led to chain resturaunts, such as McDonalds, as having the highest rate of recognizability to children. Kid-centered promotions such as Happy Meals and free toys have also led to the development of positive reinforcements within children for negative actions. Studies have been done to confirm these claims including one from Harris (2009) which states, “Health advocates have focused on the prevalence of advertising for calorie-dense low-nutrient foods as a significant contributor to the obesity epidemic. This research tests the hypothesis that exposure to food advertising during TV viewing may also contribute to obesity by triggering automatic snacking of available food. Design: In Experiments 1a and 1b, elementary-school-age children watched a cartoon that contained either food advertising or advertising for other products and received a snack while watching.

In Experiment 2, adults watched a TV program that included food advertising that promoted snacking and/or fun product benefits, food advertising that promoted nutrition benefits, or no food advertising. The adults then tasted and evaluated a range of healthy to unhealthy snack foods in an apparently separate experiment. Main Outcome Measures: Amount of snack foods consumed during and after advertising exposure. Results: Children consumed 45% more when exposed to food advertising. Adults consumed more of both healthy and unhealthy snack foods following exposure to snack food advertising compared to the other conditions.

In both experiments, food advertising increased consumption of products not in the presented advertisements, and these effects were not related to reported hunger or other conscious influences. Conclusion: These experiments demonstrate power of food advertising to prime automatic eating behaviors and thus influence far more than brand preference alone. ” the Commercials aimed at children will also depict a number of social constructs which are detrimental to the well being of its end-users and their families. Toy commercials, for instance, will usually show a group of kids playing together with their marketed product.

There is a level of peer pressue which arises from such advertising which leads to children feeling left behind and outside of a social circle if they do not have a way to obtain the merchandise. This mindset quickly puts an emphasis on consumerism and the obtainment of material items to acquire happiness and fulfillment in life (Kelley, 2010). This problem not only creates a pattern of poor spending habits from an early age, but it also sets the individual up for a lifetime of low self esteem and a negative perception of self. Advertising will depict people in specific cirumcstances intended to make the product as marketable and desirable as possible. Since children are unable to decipher the marketing end-goals from reality, viewed stereotypes about family functions, gender roles, and behaviors will become entrenched within the individuals consciescness (Davis, 2003). In conclusion, advertising to children sets an early precedent for unhealthy habits and stereotypes that will impact individuals for their entire life. Being unable to decipher the differences between advertising content and reality puts children at significantly more risk to face detrimental problems that adult viewers can ignore.

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