Kids and teens are an integral part of the Internet population and are not forgotten when companies aim to appeal to their target market. Children should be enticed to live happy, healthy, care free lives as opposed to becoming the target market for sites that may or may not be appropriate. Parents find themselves forced to decide not only which friends their children can have, which toys they can buy, the cd’s & mp3’s they can listen to, but now also which websites are appropriate for the kids.
With so many websites targeting children, it’s almost shocking that they do not find themselves overwhelmed. There are sites for girls, boys, preschoolers, middle schoolers, junior high, high school, kids who like science/dolls/history/technology/food/and so much more!
Sites like www.americangirl.com target girls that are interested in these dolls. The site includes links to send Valentines, make a scrapbook, write poetry, compare doll clothing, talk to other owners, take quizzes, and read the history of each doll.
Sites like www.webkinz.com allow a younger group of children to play online through taking care of a virtual pet.
There are clearly so many options for children online, but is targeting them for advertising ethical? The New American Dream reviewed a book by Juliet Schor on this very subject.
Below is an excerpt.
The Commercialized Child and the New Consumer Culture by consumer expert Juliet Schor, explores the damaging effects advertising and marketing have on children. According to this breakthrough research, the advertising-saturated culture our children are exposed to is causing an array of psychosomatic symptoms.
Expenditures for advertising and marketing aimed specifically at children have risen to over $15 billion a year. This amount is likely to grow with the increase in children’s buying power, now estimated at more than $30 billion a year in direct purchases. Children influence an additional $670 billion worth of parental spending, making them a prime advertising target. It’s estimated that the average child watches more than 40,000 television commercials per year. According to a recent poll released by the Center for a New American Dream nearly 8 in 10 of Americans (79%) think there should be more limits on advertising to children. The majority of Americans (87%) think that our current consumer culture makes it harder to instill positive values in our children.