Advertising is a powerful force in American culture. It exists to sell products and services. In 1750 BC the Code of Hammurabi made it a crime, punishable by death, to sell anything to a child without first obtaining a power of attorney. In the 1990s, selling products to American children has become a standard business practice.
American children have viewed an estimated 360 000 advertisements on television before graduating from high school.1 Additional exposures include advertisements on the radio, in print media, on public transportation, and billboards. Commercials have even entered the classroom through programs like Channel One—video equipment packaged with current events programming that contains commercials.
The principal goal of commercial children's television is to sell products to children, with food and toys being the two most frequently advertised product categories.2 Advertisers generally use two approaches to sell their products. The traditional method places commercials in programs that are attractive to children. These commercials promote products unrelated to the program being shown. The second approach, begun in 1982, features toy action figures as the main characters of a program. Because these programs are often developed by the marketing division of toy companies to market specific toys, they are frequently referred to as "program-length commercials."
The Children's Television Act of 1990 mandates that all broadcasters carry children's educational or instructional programming as a condition for license renewal. One of the problems of the current law is that stations can cite public service announcements (PSAs) or short vignettes as evidence of compliance.
- Copyright © 1995 by the American Academy of Pediatrics