Is advertising family friendly?

I was very impressed to read about the ‘Mothers Union’ and how it seeks to protect children that grow up in an ever increasing sexualized world, whereby children  are confronted by sexy advertising bill boards and similar material on and off the net. It’s almost part of our daily lives.

Commercial advertisements are made for those who can spent money and that are often the single workers who have got the cash to spare. Cash-strapped families are not so much a target for large scale ad campaigns. Children friendly advertising hits us each year before Christmas and its worst here in the UK than in other parts of Europe where ads for toys are not even allowed to that extent, that we see here regularly.

There are then the Christmas song choices and competitions and I must say that the lyrics of today’s pop songs are often very sexualized and make you think about one thing alone. That without any doubt, influences how children look at persons and personal relationships. I am personally bored by today’s trivial music, which leaves little to the imagination and find the half-naked stage shows unattractive.

Whilst parents in the past tried to avoid the talk about reproduction and sexual things completely, they now have no choice because its not only in music videos, music lyrics, street posters and on the Internet but also the schools give sexual awareness lessons.

One can make too much fuss and bring children’s minds around to thinking about this when otherwise they would not really be interested at all. The Bailey Child sexualisation review has asked for a review of porn control, which is very much needed. I understand that Internet service providers find it workable to put better Internet access controls for families, yet it is extremely easy for a child at present to register with Facebook for example because all a child has to do is put in a fictional date of birth and he presto the membership is accepted. So if that works for Facebook so easy, it will work for others equally easy.  Sites like Facebook are very user-friendly and families even welcome the site for easy communications with family and friends locally and across the globe.

Putting the responsibility in parents’ hands is not so easy because being on the Internet is very much an individual activity, each person is alone with the computer terminal they are sitting on. Putting on strict controls on adult content often results in not being able to see many web pages, which hinders Internet research.

Maybe it would be possible to put an inbuilt control into each new sold machine, that at the time of starting it up, the responsible adult has to enter the children that are likely to use the machine and that all activities requiring a certain age have to be approved by the adult in charge of the machine, this must include e-mail verification of memberships such as Facebook.

Yet the key to all remote and electronic communications is the proof of whom you are actually talking to and that is especially important for children. I think face to face contact is the most important point on computer communications and if a child can see the other persons they speak to it removes a lot of the uncertainty and misuse of the system. The best system to use in my view is the MSN / Windows live messenger, whereby people can actually see each other whilst they communicate over the Internet. Most laptops have inbuilt cameras these days. Often abuse takes place by adults pretending to be children and they coax children to meet them just to reveal their real age, that is not possible if children can actually see whom they talk to at the initial stage.

The voice of families is often not properly taken into account when advertising strategies are decided and therefore I welcome this call to include children’s and families’ needs into commercial policy considerations.

Throughout my experience with community work I realised that families never come to meetings and  I assume it is the same in commerce, it is that single people have  more time to meet and make policies that then affect families. It is this method that is responsible for commercial strategies running away with themselves. Families, parents need to be better consulted in many aspects of today’s commercial, artistic and public campaigns.

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. michaeleriksson
    Jun 04, 2011 @ 11:14:31

    A few remarks:

    o Of course advertising is not family friendly—and this has nothing to do with sex. Advertising is there to fool us into buying things we do not need, want, or can afford, an enemy pretending to be a friend. Advertising directed at families or children is then not family friendly—quite the opposite.

    o I strongly suspect that the current presence of sex in different media is not harmful, be it to children or society. (If anything, the level of violence should be a greater cause for concern.) Consider e.g. that our long-ago ancestors used to run around naked or that (far more recently) farm animals having sex was something that even small children was often exposed to.

    o Visual interaction is a two-edged sword. Consider e.g. Chatroulette.


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