Concerned that marketers are targeting your kids, and not sure how to approach this important issue? Keep reading!
First, I must lead with full disclosure: I have been a marketing professional my entire adult life. The degree at the time was called Visual Communications. Artistic ability was essential since client work was often drawn by hand. That was the “visual” piece. The “communications” part was the business strategy involved in communicating the message to the consumer, whether in print (magazines, newspapers, brochures, etc.) or on television.
The Digital Revolution brought dramatic change to the marketing profession by opening another avenue for reaching potential customers. Participating in this “New Media” was essential for product awareness. Online ads have a broad reach, and an audience can be targeted based on buying preferences, browsing history, and more. Because the entry point for online marketing is more cost effective, there are more competitors, large and small. The result? A seemingly endless stream of ads.
Does it matter?
For adults, this ad targeting is just part of the online experience. Unlike television, it’s not easy to mute or “turn off”. However, we can usually determine when something’s an advertisement and when it’s not.
Unfortunately, it’s different for your kids. And not only do they have traditional media exposure, they have online exposure as well.
A groundbreaking report released in 2004 by the American Psychological Association (APA) Task Force on Advertising and Children stated that advertisers were spending over $12 billion dollars annually to reach the youth market, with children viewing in excess of 40,000 commercials.
According to the same APA report, “children recall content from the ads to which they’ve been exposed.” And product preference can occur by viewing just one commercial. Plus, repeated exposure strengthens the child’s product preference.
Since that report, youth-targeted advertising dollars is projected to exceed $20 billion; the greatest growth occurring in online marketing. Obviously, a significant return is anticipated for such a substantial advertising investment.
While most parents can control the TV remote, time online is typically unsupervised. And children are more apt to freely offer personal information (their likes, dislikes, contact info, geolocation, etc.) without an understanding of privacy concerns or the data’s potential use. With increased marketing sophistication, advertisements can sometimes look like entertainment. And if you have children less than 8 years of age, they cannot tell the difference between the two.
Also, parents, if your kids are playing “free” games online, those games are probably being paid for through targeted ads.
How To Educate Your Kids
As in most things, education is the best—and necessary—approach. This education must include traditional media and online media since your kids will probably encounter both.
In an article posted at Common Sense Media, the author offers tips for parents to help their kids become smart consumers. Obviously, talking about this subject with your preschooler will be much different than discussing it with your high schooler, and she breaks this down for you. Please check out this great resource and age-appropriate recommendations.
A Legislative Response?
As I was working on this post, I noticed a news report on a recently introduced Senate bill, titled “The Clean Slate for Kids Online Act”. With all the attention lately on data mining practices, including Facebook Messenger Kids and YouTube Kids (both advertise to the preteen market), privacy concerns for children are receiving lawmakers’ attention. The bill’s purpose is to demand the social media giants to erase any and all data collected before a user turns the age of 13.
This bill will be interesting to watch as it works its way through the legislative process. In the meantime, parents, be proactive in teaching your kids the skills and discernment necessary to understand how ads work. Please use the links provided to educate yourself as you prepare to discuss this topic with your kids.
And, as always, feel free to comment! Let us know how you address this issue in your home. We would love to hear from you.
Franklin Santagate is the Executive Vice President of Marketing for Pure Flix, and works with denominations, ministries, and organizations by finding common vision, assets, resources and influence. From that position, we create initiatives we can do together that we cannot do apart, reaching our mutual objectives and expanding the Kingdom of God. To discover more or to become a Pure Flix Global Strategic Alliance partner go to http://pureflixalliance.com/join/.