Older Kids Who Understand TV Ads Are Less Susceptible
Do we need a ban or education? This question predominates the political debate about how to deal with children and advertising in many Western countries. A 2009 study in Communications shows that children’s susceptibility to advertising depends on the age of the child. Older children (10-12 y/o) who understand the persuasive intent of advertising are less susceptible. Surprisingly, younger children (8-9 y/o) who understand advertising’s persuasive nature are more susceptible to advertising. So, do we need a ban on advertising or educate children about it's intent? This choice may depend on the age of the child.
- Children’s susceptibility to the persuasive influence of advertising depends on the type of advertising defense and the age of the child:
- older children (10-12 y/o) who understand the persuasive intent of advertising are less susceptible;
- younger children (8-9 y/o) who understand the advertising’s persuasive intent are more susceptible to advertising.
- Recent research shows that disliking advertising increases defenses among all ages.
- When considering policy measures policy makers should take into account the age of the target group.
- When designing advertising interventions and education, developers should consider the type of defense that is being taught to children in different age groups.
The question?Do children’s cognitive defenses against advertising reduce the relationship between advertising exposure and their desire for advertised products?
Who?296 8- to 12-year old children (mean age: 10 years old; 52% boys)
How?This study was part of a larger study about children’s cognitive advertising defenses. The children filled out a computer-assisted online survey at school about their exposure to TV ads, desire for products in TV ads, and whether their parents talked about the content of the TV ads.
Then, the children watched child-directed TV ads and fragments of TV programs. After each TV program or ad, they answered questions about their recognition of advertising in the program or TV ad. For each TV ad, the children were asked an additional question about their understanding of its selling or persuasive intent.
Facts and findings
- Children’s recognition of advertising and understanding that advertising intends to sell products did not reduce the relation between advertising exposure and their desire for products in TV ads.
- However, older children (10-12 y/o) who understood that advertising intends to persuade were less susceptible to the persuasive influence of advertising.
- A possible explanation for this finding is that younger children are not yet capable of using their cognitive defenses against advertising.
- Understanding advertising’s persuasive intent had a boomerang effect for younger children (8-9 y/o). In other words, young children who understood that advertising intends to persuade were more susceptible to the impact of advertising.
- The authors gave the following explanation for this finding: for younger children it is difficult to process the persuasive content of an advertisement and to think critically about advertising therefore advertising could have a stronger persuasive effect on them.
- Critical fact: This study does not allow for any conclusions about cause (i.e., cognitive advertising defenses) and effect (i.e., susceptibility to the persuasive influence of advertising). The results only show that children’s cognitive defenses against advertising are associated with their susceptibility to the persuasive influence of advertising.