Ad for Sweets Leaves Sour Taste in My Mouth

A new sphere of television shows has now expanded my horizon: Kiddies TV.

It is incredible that the programmes are even more varied and engaging since I was a child. More vivid, intellectual content so complex, I doubt the average 6-year-old compreremote controlhends it; the stretch-the-imagination themes, the HD quality and interactive components, as well as the 24-hour availability of shows and on-demand options, make this avenue an exciting element for childhood memories.

However, imagine my surprise when I was first confronted by an advertisement about sweets. Simple sweets, an instant palate-pleaser for kids. It was not the product that got my attention but rather the content/theme that the ad was portraying. Picture this: There’s a musical interlude, and we see a group of preteens sitting cross-legged on the floor. Girl looks at boy and smiles, boy looks at girl with a literal twinkle in his eye – pause – they share a chaste kiss while their friends watch. I was in shock.

I had to acknowledge that I was out of my element. I began to ponder, exactly what was the message being conveyed? On a basic level – buying this sweet would offer an opportunity to get a chance to be kissed. On a deeper level – is there a need to focus on sexuality and food with kids as the target audience? Does a 12-year-old need this subliminal enticing to get engaged into relationship-related activities? Am I overreacting? My initial reaction was to have some consideration for social responsibility.

Upon reflection, I found it interesting that Television Content Rating Systems were developed to guide parents and guardians in filtering what kids watched. It has been in operation for years. I wondered whether, in an ideal world, there is a similar system/review process for commercials. In an environment where the rating is general, would it logically follow that advertisements shown at intermissions would follow a similar standard? I know it would be really ludicrous to have the rating system flash for every commercial on a kids’ television network, but seriously, if I have the option to access a general rating cartoon, why don’t I have the option not to be bombarded with a 20-second advertisement filled with PG-13 content that is being aired in tandem with the cartoon?

This leads to my main concern regarding how to counter the numerous messages that are legitimately filtered to our children. Is it necessary to test the limits as to what we portray to kids? The message of how easy and convenient it is to kiss for the reward of a sweet may prompt more interest, but would it exponentially affect the product’s sales? The unintended impact far outweighs the immediate goal: promotion of product.

We refer to parents and teachers as the responsible agents in molding our children, but the other outlets are led by the corporate world, and the sellers of products must take their contributions seriously as well. Responsible advertisements with age-appropriate content for segmented audiences should be done for all age groups. In a world of dynamic creativity for product placement and promotion, there should be a balance that respects the traditional values of family life – protection of children to grow in safe environments.

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Testing limits will always be welcomed, but there has to be some moral code to guide us – using a kiss to sell sweets to preteens and younger children is just pushing the boundaries without just cause. I doubt there is going to be a revolution to demand sweets because of a global trend of kids having absolutely zero desire to get a sugar high.