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Children as vulnerable consumers

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In recent years, companies have started to pay more attention on digital marketing. Moreover, even there, we can see huge developments, direct marketing and advertising are being replaced with trust, storytelling and content marketing. When we look at the trends for 2016, live-streaming, video innovation, social media and social marketing are at the top. Often advertising is being so cleverly hidden, that you do not even realise, that actually a company sells you an idea of a product.  

That is why children are increasingly exposed to online marketing, especially if you think how much time they spend time online and how television has to a great extent been replaced by Internet both as an information source and a leisure activity. The Internet has also overtaken television as the medium for advertising.

I am glad, that the European Commission has funded a research project that studied the scope and effects of online marketing on children. Shortly, the study provides novel insights into the prevalence and characteristics of online marketing targeting children, how children's behaviour is influenced by these marketing practices, and how online marketing is regulated across Europe. Unfortunately, the findings are as predicted – children do not always understand, what is marketing. Moreover, embedded advertisements affect children's behaviour without them being aware of it.

This topic becomes more and more relevant, especially in the context of Digital Single Market, increasing e-commerce and constantly changing and developing marketing world. There is no point thinking that it does not affect us. As parents, teachers, consumer education specialists, we should talk more to children and students about marketing, its hidden agendas and risks.

Anne-Mai Helemäe 0
I am working as an executive specialist of consumer education in Estonian Consumer Protection Board. My main interests are how to improve financial literacy and how to reach young people in order to learn more about the rights and obligations as consumers.


Children and internet marketing

Anne, You say that we should talk more to children about online marketing... but how? How to explain a 3 or 5 or even 10 year old child that someone is trying to sell her something, that there are hidden risks connected to the cute character in the game she is playing on internet... Really, how would this conversation look like, I ask, because it seems very unrealistic to me. But, even if we succeed in this, awareness of risks itself doesn't cancel the vulnerability: we can be aware of marketing pressure, and still be influenced by it.

Therefore, it is my opinion that, at least before school-age, controlling web content (by parent or teacher on local level and by government or other institutions on global level) would be a better approach than talking to children about hidden marketing exposure.

09/11/2016 - 17:24
Children and marketing

Thank you for your comment. I agree that we cannot cancel the vulnerability and that the marketing pressure will still influence us. This makes us human and as grownups, we let us also influence and we buy on emotion. But in my opinion there is a big difference whether I do it consciously or subconsciously. Marketing people think every day new ways to make us buy and to influence us and children and thus we cannot control everything. Yes, we can make market surveillance, talk to the stakeholders, to companies etc, but it all starts from within, from inner motivation and knowledge. As for how to explain the subject you can start by explaining what is advertising, what is real and what is fantasy and discuss it with children.

10/11/2016 - 14:49
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