New Report from Common Sense Media Reveals Revolution in Advertising to Kids and Teens

Report highlights need for research to measure breadth and impact of new modes of advertising

Common Sense Media
Tuesday, January 28, 2014

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Common Sense Media today announced the release of "Advertising to Children and Teens: Current Practices," a research brief that examines new methods and techniques being used to market to young people; highlights areas where research is scarce, incomplete, or outdated; and offers recommendations for new areas of study.

In the past, advertising to children and youth consisted primarily of 30-second TV ads; now it includes immersive websites, advergaming, viral marketing, mobile ads, social-media marketing, and precise behavioral and location targeting. More than ever before, advertising and entertainment are inextricably linked. In many cases, the content is the ad, and this can be particularly confusing for children, who are less able to understand persuasive intent.

The integration of advertising and content across so many platforms -- from product placement to online games and Facebook apps -- also has made it much more difficult for researchers to measure the breadth and impact of advertising on kids today. Thus far, researchers have been unable to develop proper metrics or a methodology for measuring children's and teens' exposure to such advertising, their ability to distinguish and understand its intent, and the impact it may have on them.

"Online and digital advertising has fundamentally changed the nature of marketing, and the implications are particularly troubling for kids and teens, who are less able to differentiate advertising and entertainment and whose sense of self is still developing," said Jim Steyer, CEO and founder of Common Sense Media. "What does it mean for a tween or teen girl to receive weight-loss ads, targeted to her based on her age, gender, location, the foods she likes, and the topics she searches? We need to understand the impact of this type of advertising on young people today, what it means for their consumption habits and self-esteem."

"Advertising to Children and Teens: Current Practices" is part of a multiyear research effort directed by Vicky Rideout, a senior adviser to Common Sense Media, head of VJR Consulting, and director of more than 30 previous studies on children, media, and health.

"With all the interest in the impact of media and technology on kids today, there's very little known -- and few resources being committed to finding out -- about the advertising targeting kids and teens within these platforms," said Rideout. "The research community must develop new methods to quantify and analyze the effects of advertising on young people today, not only to limit negative messages but also to bolster efforts to reach kids with positive messages."

For the full white paper, visit:

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Common Sense Media is dedicated to improving the lives of kids and families by providing the trustworthy information, education, and independent voice they need to thrive in a world of media and technology. We exist because our kids are growing up in a culture that profoundly impacts their physical, social, and emotional well-being. We provide families with the advice and media reviews they need to make the best choices for their children. Through our education programs and policy efforts, Common Sense Media empowers parents, educators, and young people to become knowledgeable and responsible digital citizens. For more information, go to:

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