Today’s kids aren’t like past generations — they are more connected and know how to work mobile devices and apps before they even learn how to read. In fact, mobile devices have become an influential part of family life — even babies are being exposed smartphones and tablet devices on a daily basis.
So, in today’s digital age, is it ethical for companies to use new media to market to kids?
To even attempt to answer this question, we must first ask: What the heck is ethical marketing? The answer to this second question is both complex and contentious, as often the line between doing what is right and making a dollar is easily blurred In general, ethical marketing is described as a philosophy that promotes honesty, fairness and responsibility in advertising. According to the American Marketing Association, advertising professionals are responsible for adhering to the following ethical norms in advertising practices:
- Do not harm. Marketers must utilize high ethical standards and follow all laws and regulations to avoid harmful actions or omissions.
- Foster trust in the marketing system. Marketers must strive for truth in marketing and avoid misleading or deceptive product design, communication, pricing and distribution.
- Embrace the core ethical values of honesty, responsibility, fairness, respect, transparency and citizenship.
Okay, now that we have somewhat cleared up, back to our original question: is it ethical for companies to use new media to market to kids? According to the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, the answer is no. Children are extremely vulnerable to advertising. In fact, research suggests a child under the age of eight lacks the cognitive skills necessary to comprehend the persuasive nature of advertisements — one 30-second advertisement can influence the brand preferences of a child as young as two years old. As a result, ads can unknowingly influence a child’s brand preferences, purchase requests and even diets.