CHILD AND CONSUMERISM is a program from the Alana Institute to increase awareness of the impacts and damage of children’s commercial exploitation in Brazil and worldwide, especially by advertising and marketing aimed at children under 12 years old in all kinds of media, including the digital environment.
Since 2006, we’ve been promoting the debate on the topic and the enforcement of children’s and consumer’s rights, notably through advocacy, including legal strategies, policy monitoring, campaigns, research and communication, also cooperating with companies to change their internal policies towards more ethical and fair marketing strategies, targeting only adults with their ads.
WHAT WE DO
One of our goals is to increase awareness and to engage civil society, companies and governments on their responsibility to protect children from commercial exploitation. We’ve been doing this by developing innovative researches and documentaries, promoting community engagement and public shame campaigns, digital communications and capacity-building for a commercial-free childhood.
We’ve made history by following closely new bills at the Parliament, participating in public hearings and dialoguing with public authorities in Brazil and globally in international organizations (specially UN system) to increase child protection. In 2014, we participated actively in the discussions of the Resolution of the National Council for the Rights of Children and Adolescents that details the concept of advertising to children.
We believe companies and the marketing industry are able to make important changes in order to protect children and that’s why we’ve always established dialogue with corporations. An example is Coca-Cola’s global policy change that 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.
We monitor, claim and enforce businesses to stop targeting ads to kids in all its forms through litigation and engagement towards public commitment, guaranteeing 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 in 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 future. We discuss and advocate on climate change, sustainable production and consumption, circular economy of plastic toys industry and against consumerist-oriented urban spaces.
Schools play an important role in children’s development and it is a space of influence from teachers and mates, which also calls businesses’ attention. We advocate for commercial-free schools and ethical educational platforms and technologies which respect children’s privacy.
Advertising to kids is unethical and abusive, therefore violent in its essence, promoting social inequalities through consumerist pressure over low income families. We promote research and debates around these issues.
Child obesity and other health issues have a direct link to advertising from unhealthy food industries. We advocate and develop research and communication materials to expose this linkage, as well as enforce this industry to diminish their commercial 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 of obesity and other non-communicable diseases in kids. Besides that it also sexualizes kids and distorts body image by re enforcing specific physical aspirations as well as gender and race stereotypes. Still it stimulates violence and stifles imagination. Last but not least, advertising is inescapable and reaches children everywhere, from TV to schools, it is in digital platforms, stores, parks, magazines, games.
Protecting kids from commercial exploitation is not only a family responsibility, but it is also a companies, government and society job.
14 YEARS OF ACHIEVEMENT
In 2006 we organized the 1st International Children and Consumption Forum, in Sao Paulo, Brazil
+200 legal complaints against child advertising practice
+10 representations led to cases in the Supreme Court of Justice
2 big cases of child advertising detected and reported by us were subject of unprecedented decisions by the Supreme Court
+30 researches and publications
In 2014, the theme of Brazil’s main university entry level exams’ essay was abou the Resolution of the National Council for the Rights of Children and Adolescents , reaching almost 10 million people to reflect on child advertising
In 2019, we contributed to UN General Comment on children’s rights in relation to the digital environment
The Toys Exchange Fair, our initiative to engage families and communities in exchanging toys instead of buying new ones, led to over 100 fairs in almost 70 cities in 2019 alone
The impact of plastic toy advertising 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, it has a low recyclability, it is potentially toxic to children and shows 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
Advertising, with its strategic maneuvers, aims to adress to our emotions its seductive appeal of sale. As adults we possess critical judgment and have the possibility of selecting those 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 12 years of age they have not developed critical thinking and therefore, are more susceptible to the appeal of commercials.
"Target Market: Kids"
Our first documentary, bringing 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 consumer society and how they can help change this scenario.
"Way Beyond Weight"
In 2012, we launched this documentary which delves into the issue of child obesity, considering that, in 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 citizens committed in one way or another with social well-being and our children’s future, to take control of the situation and demand a more conscientious and less greedy position from marketing specialists. Nevertheless, as stated by Susan Linn in her book entitled “Children of Consumption – A Stolen Childhood”, parents cannot resolve this problem alone.