The principal goal of commercial children's television is to sell products to children. Advertisers use two approaches to sell their products. The traditional method intersperses commercials in programs that are attractive to children to promote products unrelated to the program. Foods and toys constitute the two most frequently advertised product categories. The second approach, instituted in 1982, features toy action figures as the main characters of a program. Because these programs promote specific toys and are often developed by the marketing divisions of toy companies, they are known more appropriately as "program-length commercials."
Young children are unable to distinguish between programs and commercials and do not understand that commercials are designed to sell products.1,2 This observation suggests that any advertising directed at young children is inherently unfair. Program-length commercials make distinctions between programs and commercials even more difficult.
In the past, broadcasters followed the commercial time limits developed by the National Association of Broadcasters. In 1984, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) declared that commercial time would be regulated by the marketplace. Subsequently, commercial time during children's programs increased dramatically. In addition, voluntary guidelines established by the toy industry suggesting that characters or products associated with a program should not appear in advertising within or adjacent to a program3 have been stretched.
The use of commercials and programs to sell products now forms a tight ring of commercialism around children's television from which young viewers cannot escape. Television programs promote toys. The same toys are used to promote cereals and other foods.
- Copyright © 1992 by the American Academy of Pediatrics