Children and television advertising

Date of publication: June 15, 1992


This paper will argue that research into the effects of television advertising directed at children’s markets can benefit from being framed within a perspective guided by a more comprehensive understanding of children's cognitive development. A cognitive-developmental research model has a number of distinct advantages over usual largely descriptive assessments of children’s responses to television advertising. First, it can reveal the increasingly sophisticated evaluations children make of advertising as they grow up, and systematically highlight the kinds of attributes of advertising to which young viewers become increasingly sensitive with age; second, it can identify the stages through which such developments pass and the ages at which they occur, thus offering a new framework for segmenting children other than standard demographic measures; third, it helps to put into perspective (mis)conceptions and concerns about the extent to which children are supposedly vulnerable to undesirable side-effects of exposure to television advertising. The first part of the paper will describe a framework for the analysis of children’s psychological responses to television advertising and substantiate it with a review of psychological and communications research from academic literature. The second part will present previously unpublished data from qualitative research with small groups of children aged between seven and 15 years.

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