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          Children and Advertising

          April 12, 2004

          Children are bombarded by advertising these days. The “marketing machine” may be influencing your child more than you know. Here are some surprising facts about children and advertising, according to the National Institute on Media and the Family:

          • The average American child may view as many as 40,000 television commercials every year.
          • Children as young as age 3 recognize brand logos, with brand loyalty influence starting at age 2.
          • Young children are not able to distinguish between commercials and TV programs. They do not recognize that commercials are trying to sell something.
          • In 2001, teenagers spent $172 billion weekly (an average of $104 per teen each week), up 11 percent from $155 billion in 2000.
          • In 2002, children ages 4 to 12 are expected to spend an estimated $40 billion.
          • In 2000, children 12 years and under, directly and indirectly, influenced the household spending of over $600 billion.
          • In 1997, $1.3 billion was spent on television advertisements directed at children. Including all media, advertising and marketing budgets aimed at children approached $12 billion.
          • Children who watch a lot of television want more toys seen in advertisements and eat more advertised food than children who watch less television.
          • The market sales of licensed products for infants increased 32 percent to a record $2.5 billion in 1996.
          • Thirty seconds of advertising during the Super Bowl in 2008 cost $2.7 million.
          • Four hours of television programming contain about 100 ads.


          With children either spending or influencing $500 billion worth of purchases, marketing techniques have been turned upside down. In the past, the most effective way to sell children's products was through parents. Now the opposite is true. Children are the focal point for intense advertising pressure seeking to influence billions of dollars of family spending. Advertisers are aware that children influence the purchase not just of kids' products, but of everything in the household from cars to toothpaste. So these "adult" products are being paired with kid-oriented logos and images.

          With children's increased access to new communication technologies being paired with the fast-paced and busy schedules of today's families, parents are less able to filter out the messages from the advertising world.


          Television remains a focal point for children's media entertainment. The FCC's (Federal Communication Commission) "Three Hour Rule" requires that broadcasters air a minimum of three hours a week of educational and informational (E/I) television for children. However, studies have shown that the amount of violence in children's shows remains high and that not all children's programming deserves the E/I label.


          Some tips to foster healthy media use include:

          • To prevent impulse watching, use the TV guide before turning on the set.
          • Record TV shows for your child, so they have a backup when there is nothing appropriate on the television for them to watch.
          • Children need active play to promote their developmental, physical and social skills. (American Academy of Pediatrics)
          • Keep televisions out of children's bedrooms.
          • Two hours of quality television programming per day is the maximum recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

          For more information, go to

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