Loss of innocence


malavika-newChildren are being widely used in advertising and it needs to be examined what effect it has on them. There are two ways in which advertisements can psychologically affect children. These could be for the benefit of the children as seen in the promotional ads for polio eradication drives, immunisation programmes, maternal and child nutrition campaigns, AIDs awareness drives and sensitisation campaigns about drugs/alcohol/tobacco abuse. These may be termed awareness programmes and are meant for public good. as-a-childBut there is another category which is subversive and devious in its style of communication and touches the so-called baser emotions of the children and the adults around them.
Let me put forward some examples here. Paediatricians do not recommend supplements instead of normal home-cooked food. They don’t recommend biscuits, chocolates, savouries and what qualifies as junk food. Nor do they recommend so called tonics for physical growth and brain development. But many advertisements of such products promote this unhealthy notion.
Children are made to sell objects of daily use like toothpaste, soap, insurance, etc. They are portrayed as grown-ups and adults as simple and childish! Is it to demonstrate to the children that they have better sense than the adults around them?
Products are sold through reality shows and competitions involving children that are sponsored by companies. But the misery of those who lose can’t even be imagined by most of us.
I have come across such cases in my life. Some of them have their confidence so shattered that they suffer from it for the rest of their lives.
The winners are expected to dress, talk and dance in an overtly seductive and sexualised manner. One wonders about the sanity of those adults around the child who cause this loss of innocence and deprives the child of childhood itself.
There are even more devious ploys to promote the desire for acquisition of objects. These show children and adults indulging in unethical acts and immoral behaviours.
Examples abound but to list a few: a child indulges in deception while talking on a mobile phone to his parents, a child wants a bigger and showy car, a child/adult brags about a grand car and other children are made to look jealous.
Now, tell me whether these can possibly have nice influence on the minds of young children.
As a child psychologist, I ask a simple question. Are there no ethical guidelines when it comes to exploitation of children through advertisements?
Perhaps, it should come under the Child Labour and Regulation Act. Physical damage can be measured while psychological damage is immeasurable. Should we, as responsible adults, not protect our children?

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