Bad News on Day Care; Advertisers Admonished on Marketing to Children

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May 7, 2001

Recent news reports following studies of childcare in the U.S. have further fueled what one pundit called the “day care culture war”-the controversy over who is best equipped to care for children. One federally funded study, touted by the Washington Post as “the largest and most authoritative study of child care and development ever conducted,” suggested a correlation between excessive hours spent in day care and aggressive behavior later in childhood. On the heels of that study came another by which pointed to severe staffing problems at child care centers. Turnover is high, and replacement staff tend to have less training and education than their predecessors do. Childcare advocates have long proscribed better training for childcare workers and more money to attract and keep them, reasoning that better quality childcare is better for children’s intellectual and emotional development. And the aggressiveness study does indicate that children who spend more time in day care are more likely to start school “ready to learn.” However, such a system may simply create “smart bullies.” Moreover, these effects are not mitigated by the quality of the childcare provided.

Advertisers Admonished on Marketing to Children
A broad coalition of scholars, advocates and leaders from across the political spectrum gathered in New York City this week to draft a report outlining the effects of advertising on children and calling on advertisers to pay attention to the messages they convey to impressionable young minds. “Watch out for Children: A Mothers’ Statement to Advertisers,” addresses the increasingly powerful influence of mass marketing in shaping children’s values. The report, released by the Mothers’ Council of the Institute for American Values, calls upon advertisers to voluntarily adopt a “Mothers’ Code,” including such tenants as no advertising or marketing in schools, no target marketing to children under the age of 8, and efforts to reduce sponsorship of programming with gratuitous sexual or violent content that children are likely to watch. The report also condemns advertising that promotes selfishness and instant gratification over self-control, moderation and empathy. It reminds advertisers of the time-honored principle that “all adults-from parents to business leaders-must watch what they do and say in front of children.”

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