CHILD AND CONSUMERISM is an Alana Institute program created to increase awareness of the impacts and damage caused by children’s commercial exploitation in Brazil and around the world, especially through advertising and marketing aimed at children under 12 in every kind of media, including the digital environment.
Since 2006, we’ve been fostering a debate on the issue and fighting for the enforcement of children’s and consumer’s rights, notably through advocacy, including legal actions, policy monitoring, campaigns, studies and communication, as well as cooperating with companies to steer their internal policies towards more ethical and fair marketing strategies, and limiting their ads to an adult audience.
WHAT WE DO
One of our goals is to increase awareness and engage civil society, businesses and government on their responsibility to protect children from commercial exploitation. We’ve been doing this by developing innovative studies and documentaries, promoting community engagement and campaigns against companies that direct their advertising to children, as well as digital communications and capacity-building for a commercial-free childhood.
LEGAL POLICY MONITORING
We’ve made history by closely following new legislative bills, participating in public hearings and engaging with public authorities in Brazil and around the world through international organizations (especially the UN system) to increase protections for children. In 2014, we were directly involved in the discussions on the Resolution of the National Council for the Rights of Children and Adolescents that details the concept of advertising to children.
CHANGING THE PRIVATE SECTOR
We believe companies and the marketing industry are capable of making important changes in order to protect children, and that’s why we’ve always established a dialogue with corporations. One example is Coca-Cola’s global policy change, which was made public after our documentary Way Beyond Weight (2012). Other big corporations, such as Mars and Unilever, have also stopped targeting kids with ads.
OUR AREAS OF ACTIVITY
We monitor, report and use legal means to get businesses to stop targeting kids with advertising in all its forms, employing litigation and engagement towards public commitments, helping guarantee commercial-free play, education, leisure, social equality and health.
The digital world has increased the challenge of protecting kids from commercial exploitation. Thus, we work on protecting kids on digital platforms, social media, data privacy, Artificial Intelligence, connected toys, Internet of Things and other issues.
A consumerist culture directly impacts the environment, bringing drastic consequences to our children’s habits and their future. We discuss and advocate on the issues of climate change, sustainable production and consumption, circular economy for the plastic toys industry, and against consumerist-oriented urban spaces.
Schools play an important role in children’s development, offering a space for influence from teachers and classmates, but they also attract the attention of businesses. We advocate for commercial-free schools and ethical educational platforms and technologies that respect children’s privacy.
VIOLENCE AND INEQUALITY
Advertising to kids is unethical and abusive, and is therefore violent in its essence, promoting social inequalities through consumerist pressures over low income families. We promote studies and discussions around these issues.
Child obesity and other health issues are directly linked to advertising by unhealthy food companies. We advocate and develop studies and communication materials to expose this connection, as well as to persuade this industry to reconsider their advertising strategies towards kids.
WHY MARKETING TO CHILDREN IS DETRIMENTAL
It is highly unfair to target kids specially under 12 years old with ads once they are more vulnerable than adults as they are going through a physical, psychological, emotional and social development process. Therefore children are not capable neither of understanding the persuasive intent of commercials nor protecting themselves from these messages. Advertising to kids hurts them in many ways. Firstly, it leads to excessive and unsustainable consumption habits, which brings drastic consequences to the environment as well as financial impacts to the families. Getting children to nag is a common marketing strategy because it works! But it also undermines parents and leads to family stress.
Marketing to kids also encourages unhealthy eating by targeting them with low-nutritional value foods, which contributes to the increase in obesity and other non-communicable diseases in kids. Furthermore, it also sexualizes kids and distorts body image by reenforcing specific physical aspirations, as well as gender and race stereotypes. It can also stimulate violence and stifle the imagination. Last but not least, advertising is inescapable and reaches children everywhere, from TV to schools, on digital platforms, stores, parks, magazines, and games. Protecting kids from commercial exploitation is not just a family’s responsibility, it is also up to companies, governments and society.
14 YEARS OF ACHIEVEMENTS
Child and Consumerism was created, when we organized the 1st International Children and Consumption Forum, in São Paulo, Brazil. Since then...
+200 legal complaints
against child advertising practices have been filed by us
+10 legal cases
of our authorship led to decisions by the Brazilian Supreme Court
2 big cases
of child advertising detected and reported by us were the subject of unprecedented decisions by the Supreme Court
and publications were made or commissioned by us
+10 million people
were asked to reflect on the impacts of child advertising, with the theme for the essay for Brazil’s main university entry level exams in 2014 being the Resolution of the National Council for the Rights of Children and Adolescents
we contributed to UN General Comment on children’s rights in relation to the digital environment, built a global coalition on the digital rights of children, and much more
we will celebrate 15 years of achievement with the 4th International Children and Consumption Forum Online
The impacts of advertising plastic toys to children
The report “Plasticized Childhood” analyzes the correlation between advertising to children, the commercialization of toys in Brazil, and its effects on the consumption and disposal of plastic, as well as on children’s health. It stresses the fact that 90% of toys worldwide are made of plastic materials, which have a low recyclability and are potentially toxic to children, showing how advertising to kids contributes to these externalities.
The impacts of banning advertising directed at children in Brazil
This report discusses the main findings in three areas: international trends in child-directed advertising, the impacts of banning child-directed advertising in Brazil, and the business case for an ethical approach by firms in terms of the targeting of children in their advertising practices. Report by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), 2017.
Why Advertising is Bad for Children
The strategy behind advertising is to appeal to our emotions in its sales pitch. As adults, we possess critical judgment and are capable of selecting products that best correspond to our real needs. However, the same does not occur with children, who are more vulnerable to persuasive messages because they are still developing. It is known that until about the age of 12, children have not fully developed critical thinking skills, making them more susceptible to the appeal of commercials.
"Target Market: Kids"
Our first documentary offers a critique of excessive consumerism in childhood, driven by advertising without limits, ethics or regulations. An invitation to parents and educators to reflect on their roles in our consumerist society, and how you can help change this scenario.
"Way Beyond Weight"
Released by us in 2012, this documentary delves into the issue of child obesity. By the year 2012, 33% of Brazilian children were overweight, and one of the reasons for this is the excessive advertising of unhealthy food to kids.
What to do to protect our children from consumerism
It is up to everyone, parents and other citizens committed in one way or another to social well-being and our children’s future, to take control of the situation and demand a more conscientious and less greedy approach from marketing specialists. Nevertheless, as stated by Susan Linn, in her book entitled “Children of Consumption – A Stolen Childhood,” parents cannot solve this problem alone.