Introduction: Children and the Consumer Society
The consumer society encompasses a diverse range of individuals representing various demographic factors, with age being a prominent variable. Children and young consumers experience distinct impacts through interactions with the consumer society. This society places significant emphasis on exchanging goods and services, making it a crucial economic and social activity. Children are no longer passive consumers; they now play a vital role in the broader landscape of consumerism, marketing, and advertising efforts. This essay explores the multifaceted interactions between the consumer society and children and young consumers, recognizing that the influence of the consumer society on childhood is not exclusively negative.
The Interface of the Consumer Society with Childhood
With the advent of television in the early 20th century, marketers and advertisers swiftly recognized its potential to introduce products to vast audiences, spanning both the young and the elderly. This realization ensured a vast pool of children and adults available for businesses. Currently, marketing and advertising activities have become an integral part of children’s daily lives. Young children often struggle to discern the persuasive intent of advertisements, while older children encounter difficulties in comprehending newer marketing techniques that blur the line between commercial and regular content.
Television: A Prime Medium for Targeting Children and Youth
Television has long served as a primary platform for advertising to children and young individuals. Each year, children are exposed to approximately 40,000 advertisements, primarily promoting products such as fast food, sugary cereals, toys, and candies. Moreover, children are increasingly targeted by these products online. The growing purchasing power of children and young consumers over time has made the youth demographic an immensely lucrative market for businesses.
The impact of children and youth within the consumer society extends to shaping the purchasing decisions of families, from choosing vacations to buying cars to selecting meals. Experts estimate that in the United States, children aged two to fourteen significantly influence over more than $500 billion annually in household spending. Therefore, influencing young individuals effectively means influencing the entire family’s purchasing choices.
The rapid expansion of online platforms and television stations has facilitated direct marketing to children and youth by advertisers. This is because children and youth are heavy consumers of media and early adopters of new technologies and advertising campaigns, providing efficient pathways into the lives of young individuals. Advertising profoundly impacts the consumer-related knowledge, values, attitudes, and behaviors of children. Researchers have identified a positive relationship between the volume of ad exposure and its overall impact. This positive connection is primarily attributed to high exposure levels and repeated ads, which enhance a child’s memory of advertisements, a crucial factor when assessing long-term effects.
In the case of older children, their cognitive skills are more advanced, enabling them to comprehend the commercial intent prevalent in the consumer society. They often employ cognitive defenses against consumer commercials, resulting in negative attitudes, including distrust and cynicism towards advertising. Older children tend to exhibit less favorable attitudes compared to their younger counterparts. The educational background and social class of parents also influence the interaction between the consumer society and childhood.
Parents are partially influenced by their own social class and educational background, indirectly affecting their children’s attitudes and behaviors as consumers. The overall purchasing environment created by parents shapes the interaction between children and TV advertisements. In many research studies, there is a correlation between parents from lower social classes and higher levels of TV exposure, along with greater exposure to advertisements among children. Regarding direct influence, parents impact their children’s behavior by providing feedback on TV ads and the products they purchase within the consumer society. Parents’ moral judgments and subsequent discussions regarding the issues presented in TV ads also significantly influence. Most researchers concur that parents play a crucial role as responsible mediators in their children’s interactions with television. Co-viewing between parents and children is typically more frequent among older children, as their preferences align more closely with their parents.
Children’s Purchasing Behavior
There exists a common belief that adults are less susceptible to the advertising and marketing of products and services. In the United Kingdom, it is estimated that nearly 13 million children under sixteen, and approximately 70 percent receive pocket money. This represents a significant financial influence on children and young people within the consumer society. Western markets have witnessed a relatively recent development known as the ‘children’s market.’ Concerns have arisen regarding the impact of the commercialization of childhood on ‘pester power’ and the presence of persuasive kids. In the consumer society, children hold a vital position in the consumer market, and they are no longer viewed merely as passive consumers of products and services.
Children have transitioned from being solely savers to becoming active spenders. For instance, in the UK, there was a declaration prohibiting the advertising of high-fat, salt, or sugar-laden products on children’s TV channels. In the United States, advertising campaigns targeting children command an expenditure of approximately $15 billion. In the consumer society, children are perceived as integrated into consumption practices, whether as individuals or as family members.
When examining children’s consumption from the perspective of consumer culture, it becomes evident that children and young people are not merely passive consumers in the market, nor are the influences of products and services purely negative. Successful marketing campaigns targeting children and young consumers employ branded characters as a means of interaction between children and the consumer society. These characters hold a strong appeal to children.
For example, companies obtain licensing rights to use beloved cartoon characters, such as Nickelodeon’s SpongeBob SquarePants, to boost the sales of products ranging from food to vacations. Companies also employ animated characters as spokespersons for specific products, like Tony the Tiger representing Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes. Similarly, the character of Ronald McDonald is used to promote the McDonald’s brand, including Happy Meals.
The use of premiums, such as small toys in Happy Meals, also enhances product purchases, both on television and online. Online interactive agents represent another mode of interaction between the consumer society and childhood. These agents take the form of virtual stealth advertising. Marketers employ program robots known as “bots” to engage users in one-on-one relational interactions. The utilization of video games also serves as a means of communication between tech-savvy children and the consumer society. Marketers build brand awareness and loyalty through the creation and deployment of video game applications tailored to consumers. The success of a game indicates the consumer’s interest, engagement, and intense focus on the product.
Children have become integral components of the consumer society and are now the deliberate focus of marketing and advertising campaigns. With the emergence of the internet and various media channels, the consumer society has become increasingly attuned to the needs, attitudes, behaviors, and values of children. Numerous avenues exist for the consumer society to interact with children and young consumers.
The attitudes and purchasing behaviors of parents, coupled with their social class and educational backgrounds, play a significant role in shaping how their children are influenced by the products and services within society. Distinctions in attitudes between younger and older children are noticeable. Acknowledging that children are active participants in consumer society, marketers have adopted specific marketing and advertising strategies tailored for children and young people. The utilization of video games, children-specific cartoon characters, and the development of targeted marketing campaigns for children and young people have become prominent in consumer society.
Frequently Asked Questions About “Children and Consumer Culture – Child Behavior”
What is the role of children and young consumers in the consumer society?
Children and young consumers play a significant role in the consumer society as active participants. They are no longer passive consumers but have become the focus of marketing and advertising campaigns.
How have the internet and media channels influenced the consumer society’s approach to children?
The advent of the internet and various media channels has made the consumer society more attentive to the needs, attitudes, behaviors, and values of children. These platforms have become crucial for interacting with young consumers.
What factors influence how products and services influence children in society?
Several factors play a role in shaping how children are influenced, including the attitudes and buying patterns of parents, their social class, and educational backgrounds.
Are there differences in the attitudes of younger and older children in the consumer society?
Yes, there are distinctions in attitudes between younger and older children. Older children often exhibit more advanced cognitive skills, allowing them to understand better and scrutinize advertising and commercial intent.
How do marketers target children and young consumers in the consumer society?
Marketers use various strategies, including video games, children-specific cartoon characters, and tailored marketing campaigns for children and young people.
What are “pester power” and “persuasive kids,” and how do they relate to children’s influence in the consumer society?
“Pester power” refers to the ability of children to influence their parents’ purchasing decisions through persistent requests. “Persuasive kids” are children who can effectively communicate their preferences and desires for products and services, which can impact family spending.
How does the concept of a “children’s market” manifest in the consumer society?
In the Western markets, there is a relatively new development called the “children’s market.” This concept acknowledges children as a significant consumer market and highlights their importance in the marketplace.
What are some examples of branded characters used in marketing to children and young consumers?
Companies often use beloved cartoon characters like Nickelodeon’s SpongeBob SquarePants or Tony the Tiger for Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes to appeal to children and enhance product sales.
How do online interactive agents, like “bots,” fit into marketing to children in the consumer society?
Online interactive agents are a form of virtual stealth advertising. Marketers use program robots known as “bots” to engage users in one-on-one interactions, creating a personalized and relational marketing approach.
What is the ultimate message regarding the role of children in the consumer society?
The ultimate message is that children and young people are active participants in the consumer society, not merely passive consumers. They are a crucial part of the market, and marketers tailor strategies to engage with them effectively.