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Buying Our Youth


Get the Facts

  • Children are more likely to have two TV's in their homes than two parents (American Academy of Pediatrics)
  • American kids see 40,000 commercials a year.
  • By age 65, the average American viewer will have seen 2 million commercials.
  • By age 2, children can develop brand loyalty by recognizing corporate logos.
  • 97% of children aged six and under have toys or products based on characters from TV shows and movies.
  • 59% of Americans can name the Three Stooges. Only 17% of Americans can name three members of the Supreme Court.
  • The TV is on in an average US home 7 hours and 40 minutes per day, or more than 50 hours a week.
  • The time parents spend in "meaningful conversation" with kids? 38.5 minutes per week.
  • The average American youth spends 900 hours a year in school, but 1,023 hours in front of the TV.
  • Children between the ages of 4 and 6 spend more than 2 hours in front of a screen per day. But the average time they are read to is 41 minutes a day--if that.
  • The percentage of 4-6 year readers who live in homes where the TV is always on: 34
  • If the TV is not always on, 56% will be reading.
  • Only one parent in a dozen requires kids to do homework before watching TV.
  • By age 18, an American child will have seen between 200,000 and 250,000 acts of violence on TV. 16,000 of those will be homicides, despite the statistical drop in the national homicide rates. 91% of children polled for this study (pre 9/11) said they felt "upset" or "scared" by TV violence.
  • Only 16% of programs showed the long-term effects of violence. Only 4% of violent programs emphasize non-violent conflict resolution.
  • 81% of children between ages 2 and 7 watch TV alone and unsupervised. That percent jumps to 95 for age 7 and up.
  • 99% of homes with children under the age of six have at least one TV. (See item #1)
  • Obesity costs the American taxpayer more than $117 billion per year.
  • 23 cents out of every dollar spent on adult clothing goes for plus-sized items.
  • Children are recommended to have at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day. 14% of kids admit they get no exercise at all.

Source: RealVision

Facts about Marketing to Children

Children as Targets

  • Advertising directed at children is estimated at over $15 billion annually – about 2.5 times more than what it was in 1992.1
  • Over the past two decades, the degree to which marketers have scaled up efforts to reach children is staggering. In 1983, they spent $100 million on television advertising to kids. Today, they pour roughly 150 times that amount into a variety of mediums that seek to infiltrate every corner of children’s worlds.2
  • According to a leading expert on branding, 80 percent of all global brands now deploy a "tween strategy."3

Commercial Television

  • The average American child today is exposed to an estimated 40,000 television commercials a year — over 100 a day.4
  • A task force of the American Psychological Association (APA) has recommended restrictions on advertising that targets children under the age of eight, based on research showing that children under this age are unable to critically comprehend televised advertising messages and are prone to accept advertiser messages as truthful, accurate and unbiased.5

Beyond the Tube

  • According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, youth are multitasking their way through a wide variety of electronic media daily, juggling iPods and instant messaging with TV and cell phones. In fact, they pack 8.5 hours of media exposure into 6.5 hours each day, seven days a week — which means that they spend more time plugged in than they do in the classroom.6
  • By the mid 1990s, direct marketing, promotions, and sponsorships actually accounted for 80 percent of marketing dollars.7

New Dream Poll, "Nag Factor"

  • According to a national survey commissioned by the Center for a New American Dream:
  • American children aged 12 to 17 will ask their parents for products they have seen advertised an average of nine times until the parents finally give in.
  • More than 10 percent of 12- to 13-year-olds admitted to asking their parents more than 50 times for products they have seen advertised.
  • More than half of the children surveyed (53%) said that buying certain products makes them feel better about themselves. The number is even higher among 12- to 13-year-olds: 62% say that buying certain products makes them feel better about themselves.
  • Nearly a third of those surveyed (32%) admitted to feeling pressure to buy certain products such as clothes and CDs because their friends have them. Over half of 12- to 13-year-olds (54%) admitted to feeling such pressure.
  • The nagging strategy is paying dividends for kids and marketers alike: 55% of kids surveyed said they are usually successful in getting their parents to give in.8
What Kids Really Want
  • According to a 2003 New American Dream poll, 57 percent of children age 9-14 would rather do something fun with their mom or dad than go to the mall to go shopping.9

In Schools

  • The American Beverage Association (formerly National Soft Drink Association) at one point estimated that nearly two thirds of schools nationwide had exclusive "pouring rights" contracts with soda companies.10
  • An informal survey of Channel One advertisers from a few years ago found that 27 percent of the ads were for junk food. The next highest category, at 10 percent, was military recruitment.11 Channel One also advertises movies, TV shows, and video games featuring violence, strong sexual content, and alcohol and tobacco use.12

Harming Children’s Well-Being

  • Obesity: Rising levels of childhood obesity track an explosion of junk food ads in recent years13.
  • Emotional well-being: Author and Boston College sociology professor Juliet Schor finds links between immersion in consumer culture and depression, anxiety, low self esteem, and conflicts with parents14.
  • Self-image and sexual behavior: Wheelock College education professor Diane Levin sees correlations with sexual imagery in children’s ads and increases in eating disorders among girls, adding that as "children struggle to make sense of mature sexual content, they are robbed of valuable time for age-appropriate developmental tasks, and they may begin to engage in precocious sexual behavior."15
  • Financial self-control: National surveys reveal that kids are leaving high school without a basic understanding of issues relating to savings and credit card debt. No surprise, then, that over the past decade, credit card debt among 18-24 year olds more than doubled16.


1. Susan Linn, Consuming Kids: The Hostile Takeover of Childhood (New York: The New Press, 2004), 1.

2. Juliet Schor, Born to Buy: The Commercialized Child and the New Consumer Culture (New York: Scribner, 2004), 21.

3. Ann Hulbert, "Tweens ‘R’ Us," The New York Times, November 28, 2004, (accessed March 8, 2006).

4. Ibid.

5. American Psychological Association, "Television Advertising Leads to Unhealthy Habits in Children; Says APA Task Force," February 23, 2004, (accessed March 8, 2006).

6. Donald F. Roberts, Ulla G. Foehr, Victoria Rideout, Generation M: Media in the Lives of 8-18 Year-Olds, The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, March 9, 2005, (accessed March 9, 2006).

7. Schor, 85.

8. "Thanks to Ads, Kids Won’t Take No, No, No, No, No, No, No, No, No for an Answer," Center for a New American Dream, 2002, (accessed March 5, 2006).

9. "What Do Kids Really Want That Money Can’t Buy?" Center for a New American Dream, 2003, (accessed March 8, 2006).

10. Katherine Battle Horgen, "Big Food, Big Money, Big Children," in Childhood Lost: How American Culture is Failing Our Kids, Sharna Olfman, ed, 128. (Westport, Connecticut: Praeger Publishers, 2005).

11. "Fat Profits From Channel One’s Junk Food Advertising: 1 Out Of 4 Ads is for Junk Food / Soft Drinks," Obligation, Inc., December 9, 2002, (accessed March 8, 2006).

12. "Channel One," Commercial Alert, (accessed March 8, 2006).

13. American Psychological Association 2004.

14. Schor, 167-172.

15. Diane Levin, as quoted in Michelle Stockwell, Childhood for Sale: Consumer Culture’s Bid for Our Kids (Washington, DC: Progressive Policy Institute, July 2005), 2, (accessed March 8, 2006).

16. "Young People Taking on More Debt," (accessed March 8, 2006).

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