We Teach Our Children To Become Savers, But Advertising Teaches Them To Become Spenders

cut the cable

I personally don’t have children. However if I did, I would want them to work hard, learn the value of a dollar and encourage them to save as much as they can. Unfortunately advertising wants the complete opposite and preys on children like the Big Bad Wolf preyed on Little Red Riding Hood.

cut the cable

Some quick facts about children and advertising:[i]

  • Children are a captive audience: The average American child watches an estimate between 25,000 to 40,000 television commercials per year. In the UK, it is about 10,000
  • Companies fork over $15-$17 billion to spend on advertising for children in the US. Over $4 billion was spent in the fast food industry alone
  • Why spend so much money on this particular demographic?
    • Teens in the US spend around $160 billion a year
    • Children (up to 11) spend around $18 billion a year
    • “Tweens” (8-12 year olds) “heavily influence” more than $30 billion in other spending by parents, and “80 percent of all global brands now deploy a ‘tween strategy.’”
    • Children (under 12) and teens influence parental purchases totalling over $130-670 billion a year.

The numbers are shocking, but they don’t lie. Children and teens are big consumers.

Imagine taking your child to the store with you to run errands. They can’t help but wander off into the toy section. Using that doe-eyed look against you, they ask if you could buy them that toy and add pretty please with sugar on top.  They say it’s the toy from the commercial on TV. They also mention it’s the same toy that Sally or Bobby from school has (and you curse Sally and Bobby’s parents in your head).

You refuse right off the bat.

You child pouts. Your child begs.

You stand your ground and remain firm.

Your child pouts and begs some more.

You still say no, stating that’s not why you’re here.  You say we can get it for your birthday or for Christmas, which are both quite far away.

Then the whining begins. Followed by the endless amount of tears.

Sounds like the start of a tantrum.

(Good luck with that)

Many teens have part-time jobs after school and on weekends, as well as working full-time in the summer.  Some may try to save up for university or college, but others save for clothing, entertainment, and material things. Teens often hang out at the mall, so it would make perfect sense that many of them would get a job at the mall and take advantage of the employee discount. Since they spend a lot of time there, most likely a LOT of money would be spent there.  You gotta eat, right? With teens, it is also an image thing. Who doesn’t want to be popular and sport the latest fashions or have the coolest gadgets?

Teens also watch a lot of TV and are heavily into music. Music and fashion trends go hand in hand. Teens read magazines. They spend a lot of time with their friends and on the internet.  Along with children, teens are heavily influenced by their surroundings.

The only time I have ever seen an ad showing a child saving was for a major bank in a print ad in a popular newspaper.  Who reads newspapers? Adults, not children.  I currently don’t have cable, but living at my parents’ house, there was cable. All those years I have spent watching television, I don’t ever recall seeing a commercial in which children are being encouraged to save their money and spend wisely.  What for? It would be detrimental to the advertising industry.

Perhaps educational television producers should look into a spinoff series entitled: “Sesame Wall Street”. Who knows? Maybe your child could be the next Warren Buffett.

 In the interest of your children’s consumer behaviour, you may want to switch off the TV next time they have it on. Or, switch to Netflix! 


18 thoughts on “We Teach Our Children To Become Savers, But Advertising Teaches Them To Become Spenders

  1. There is a constant barrage of ads that push you to buy it now and finance it now. If we don’t step up as parents and show our children what is right and wrong and how to deal with money, then shit is going to hit the fan and debt is going to be the new currency.

  2. It’s so sad to me to see kids these days without a sense of budgeting. My coworker complains about her daughter’s desire for expensive makeup despite the fact that she herself isn’t the best with money either and she often struggles with bills. She’s a single parent so I understand her financial situations but she still will give her kids money sometimes when she’s not got much herself which to me isn’t something I would do. My mom never gave me spending money growing up–if I wanted something I had to buy it with my own money and I had part-time jobs all throughout high school to subsidize my cd collection and clothing wants.

    I understand why my coworker wants to reward her kids… they really are good girls who do well in school and stay out of trouble but at the same time, I see her enabling them as not helping them in life when they eventually are out on their own. It’s hard to let go of that life of fine things when you’ve been used to it for so long.

    • I hate to admit it, but my sister and I were spoiled big time growing up. They discouraged us from having jobs while we were in high school and encouraged us to focus more on studies. They were kind of old school in their way of thinking. However, I did end up working part-time my last year of high school.

      It wasn’t really until then and when I went away to university that I truly learned the value of money. I work hard for my money, but I often wonder if I would have been slightly better off if my parents had emphasized working hard for your money earlier on.

  3. I recall a psych study involving children and marshmallows, where children who could delay gratification (not immediately eat the marshmallow) were more likely to succeed in life. It seems like a big conclusion to draw, but I can definitely see how traits of self-discipline can benefit a child over time.

    I agree, we need to raise more savers!

  4. I totally agree that if you go around for shopping with kids you end up with some extra spending than your budget. They are so influenced by those ads on TV. I have cut the chord long back and hence my kids have less impact of those ads

    • When I was a kid, whenever we’d go to the store, I would see a Barbie doll and always ask for my dad to buy me it. I ended up having a huge collection of dolls. My dad seemed to have a hard time saying no to my sister and I.

  5. This isn’t true just for kids – I’ll admit that when I’m exposed to more advertising I think more about things I want to buy. If I’m really busy and don’t watch any TV or flick through the junk mail, I’m not exposed to products I wouldn’t have otherwise considered purchasing.

  6. We work really hard at teaching our girls to save up for the things that they want. And my wife is EXCELLENT about saying “no” when theyr’e at the store. She says “no” and moves on, physically. There isn’t this standing around thing that I see other parents do–it’s like they’re having a conversation with t heir child about buying some toy. With my wife and me, it’s no coversation, there’s nothing more to be said. We say “no” and now we’re moving on. The end. We tell them that they shoudl remember the toy and save up for it.

  7. Parents should teach their children to save and become money-wise. In the end this all for the benefit of their kids more than the parents. This is a valuable lesson they can impart to their children that no one can take away.

    • While there are a lot of books on personal finance for young adults, couples, seniors, there should be more books on personal finance for children as well that parents can use as a tool. Or have children’s stories with a personal finance twist to it (For example, Clifford the Big Red Dog, saves his money to buy a new bone. Or something like that).

  8. Great post, those stats are very sobering, hate to see that the advertisers are preying on children! I for one, am going to do my part is sheltering my child from this abuse, great article!!

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