European television advertising and children

Date of publication: June 15, 1992

Author: Souné Wade

Abstract:

Children form a significant part of the television audience: for most children, television has become an integral part of their lives and in one way or another contributes to their development. Available statistics clearly show the importance of this social group for companies, including those whose products are not directly aimed at children. The kind of influence which television exerts on young and frequent viewers is a subject of worldwide debate, all too often beset by irremovable preconceptions and fears, many of which have no basis in empirical evidence. The problems involved in the relationship of children to television may be quantitative (too much time spent watching TV) or qualitative (harmful programmes). In both cases they largely derive from circumstances remote from the medium itself, linked rather to the characteristics of the environment (in the widest sense) where viewing takes place. Safeguards for the consumer and - especially in the case of categories considered to be more vulnerable - controls on advertising are guaranteed by national and international legislation and codes of practice, while the law of the market itself (especially in campaigns aimed at children) rewards honest, exhaustively informative and accurate communication. Instead of weighing down the market with further restrictive legislation, we should, in the interests of the children themselves and their balanced development, seek to ensure more intelligent and critical use of television. This can be achieved only through more direct and constant parental guidance. On the other hand, school can no longer ignore an information, entertainment and development medium as widespread as television.

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