Advertising to children: Is it ethical?

In any capitalist society profit-making is a good and a desirable thing to do, therefore, it is not surprising that companies in the West attempt to maximize shareholders’ wealth and use all available legal tools to persuade the consumers to buy more and more. Children, although do not make money, do participate in the decision making process, asking or begging their parents for certain products. Children lack experience to resist advertisings, so as a result of this, many companies target children in their commercials on purpose and successfully attain to their sales goals. The essay argues that although, it may be legal to advertise to children, it is certainly not ethical to do so, since children are not as shrewd as adults in decision making.

First of all, it is unethical to advertise to children because children lack required amount of critical thinking to resist the ad. In reality, it becomes an unfair game, where an adult advertiser tries to reach children across the country, usually in the privacy of their homes and persuades them to get some product or service. The person with a university degree in marketing uses his or her skills to influence a child and elicits their pocket money or the money of their parents in exchange for some goods that the child does not necessarily need. If there is something wrong with an adult approaching a child and using his or her charms to get the child’s money in exchange for candy or other products, it is wrong if the advertisers use media (TV, radio, digital ads) to attain to the same ethically questionable goals (Lüsted, 70).

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Another reason why it is unethical to advertise to children is because doing so usually creates more harm than benefits from the point of view of utilitarianism. Indeed, children obtain much information about the world, including their needs from their parents (family) and from the controlled community (kindergarten, elementary school) (Pecora 120). Both types of environment gradually introduce the child into the world and into the society, teaching the child to make rational and healthy choices. Advertising to children, on the contrary, is about pushing some product to the child with the advertiser’s focus directed at making a profit, not necessarily at making the child smarter, or healthier. Advertising to children, therefore, is highly unethical.

The supporters of child advertising may argue that advertising does not force children or their parents to comply or that, on the contrary, advertising to children, builds critical thinking in children and helps them become more sophisticated in the future. There is no scientific proof to such claims. In reality, advertising exploits the child’s young age and capitalizes on Bandura’s Social Learning theory that states that children frequently learn by imitating the behavior of others (Linn 203). In other words, if children are put in the environment where healthy lifestyles, hard work and honesty exist, they learn and most likely learn the demonstrated behaviors without questioning them. Ads, generally demonstrate a behavior that involves purchasing a certain good or service, therefore, children try to buy, ask parents to buy, or just want the advertised products very much, without questioning the ads, without asking themselves why they need these products and whether they actually need them. In practice, besides giving companies fast profits, children’s minds get occupied by unnecessary things, such as products and services that they still have not bought.

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The last but not least, empirically, advertising to children prompts children to make suboptimal choices and fail. Various findings suggest that advertising fast food restaurants and junk food, for instance, contributed to child obesity rate increases, and various child health issues (Gunter et al, 142). Although advertisers may argue that ads do not force anyone to do anything, in reality, it is not so. If ads did not matter, companies would not spend millions of dollars on advertising and children would not endorse unhealthy lifestyles advertised by corporations. Advertising to children is unethical because the ads cause children to make the choices that the companies want and pay for in ads, rather than independent “choices the child can make” (Blades 58).

In conclusion, advertising to children is unethical for various reasons. First of all, it is about an adult marketing professional pondering over the messages and images that will have influence on the children and prompt them to spend their money and the money of their children. If it is wrong to have adults approach children in real life for the purpose of eliciting money, it is certainly wrong to reach them via advertising channels. Secondly, advertising creates the needs and urges that satisfy the company’s sales plans, rather than true needs of the children. The supporters of advertising to children may argue that advertising does not force anyone to do anything and the consumers always have a choice whether to buy something or not. In reality, it turns out that advertising to children exploits the children’s innate propensity to imitate others as per Bandura’s Social Learning theory. This theory states that children learn by following the examples of others, therefore, it is advisable to surround children with the positive people and desirable behaviors. Advertising, on the other hand, is about increasing sales, so it may only teach children to consume and buy goods that they do not necessarily need. Ultimately, advertising to children is not good from the utilitarian point of view, since the focus on stripping children and their parents of cash to make companies richer, rather than to genuinely satisfy the children’s needs is unethical. Overall, it is proved that advertising to children prompts them to make suboptimal choices in life; therefore, advertising to children again and again should be viewed as unethical and undesirable in any developed society.

References:
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[This essay is written and donated by an Essayplant writer #092931 especially for public access.]

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