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The Dangers of Controversial Television Advertising

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Jennifer Barnhart

Kirk Miller

Comm 110

April 6th, 2006

The dangers of controversial television advertising

"I do not care if I show your child something that you would not want them to see". This seems to be what some television advertising agencies are saying to us these days. We live in a society that seems to be progressing at a rate so fast that some parents wish technology would slow down. Television is a main source of entertainment for children and adults in this day and age. With so many people viewing, advertisers are trying to capitalize on every target they can. What some parents work so hard to shield their children from; seem to be thrown in our faces by ruthless television advertisers during every commercial. Controversial television advertising affects our needs, wishes, moral standards and values.

As consumers, we are not asked what suitable viewing material for ourselves and our children is. The advertising that is on television is monitored by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The FCC has been in effect since 1927 to try and protect children against indecent material. Although any help is better than no help, the FCC only monitors sexual content and swear words. There is still a vast array of advertising and programming that includes violence and attacks on our religious and moral values that is not regulated.

While technology seems to be working against us in some cases, there is also new technology geared towards helping family’s filter material that is unwanted in their homes. Satellite and cable televisions now come with the capability to screen out certain channels. Every new television set sold in America since 2000 is equipped with a "V-chip", a blocking device that Bill Clinton forced on the media industry in 1996. (The Economist, December 16th, 2004). Since the FCC does not regulate any offensive material other than sexual behavior and cursing, the V-chip is the only way to block inappropriate material from coming into ones home.

Children are at a formative time in their lives when their minds are very impressionable. What children see on television is seen to them as what is normal in the world going on around them. Younger children do not have the capability to understand some underlying meanings in programs and advertisements that use adult humor and violence. They do however comprehend images and actions-but not the consequences and dangers that can arise from the controversial images that they have seen. Since violence is not regulated by the FCC, there is some question as to weather some of the violent acts children are committing in schools in recent years has stemmed from ideas that have possibly been implanted from unfiltered television advertising. The entertainment marketing industry has been widely criticized for encouraging children to indulge in dangerous or violent behavior. Since the widely publicized 1999 Columbine High School shooting in Littleton, Colorado, there has been much debate over the content of television programs, commercials, games, music, and movies being marketed towards children. Many feel that the violent images and actions encourage children and give them the ideas to perform these heinous acts in reality.

Thinking back to times where television and advertising was not as prevalent as is today; children seemed to be children so much longer. How often have we heard somebody say, "They just don’t make kids like they used to"? I think most would agree that children in today’s society appear to be getting older, faster. If one pays close attention to marketing trends over the past several years, it is certain that marketing advertisers are marketing to children and to parents for their children at ages earlier than ever imagined. Children are targeted as soon as they are babies. We are seeing things from videos for babies to teach them classical music, to computer software for preschoolers to teach them Spanish. The market sales of licensed products for infants increased 32% to a record 2.5 billion dollars in 1996(National Institute on Media and the Family, July, 2002) and in 1997, 1.3 billion was spent on television advertising directed at children. With these numbers growing year after year, it is no wonder that children today do not seem like children for long. While technological and educational advancement is essential, many feel that there is sometimes too much of a good thing.

American society today places too much emphasis on what a perfect body should look like. We seem to say to our children, "it doesn't matter what a person looks like on the outside, it's what's on the inside that counts", or "don't judge a book by its cover".

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