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Fact Sheet: Children and Advertising

TV and School

  • For children ages 6-17, the number one after-school activity is watching TV.

  • On average, children watch three to four hours of programming a day (28 hours a week).

  • Students spend about 900 hours in the classroom and 1,500 hours in front of the TV each year.

  • Children who watch four or more hours of TV a day are less likely to read at grade level, spend adequate time on school work, play well with friends or have hobbies.


  • By age 21, the average child will have watched 1,000,000 commercials.

  • Children see at least one hour of commercials for every five hours of programs on commercial TV.

  • The majority of children under age six do not understand that the purpose of a commercial is to sell a product.

  • Children who watch four or more hours of TV a day are more likely to believe claims made by advertisers.

  • Saturday morning commercial TV advertisers bombard children with ads for sugary cereal, salty snacks, fast food and junk food.

  • Before teens reach the legal drinking age they have watched 100,000 alcohol commercials.


  • Internet advertisers want children and teens to develop brand loyalty as early as possible.


  • Take a look at the magazines your teens read. Look for models who are air-brushed and touched up, unrealistic body images, ads that encourage underage drinking, tobacco use, violence, violence against women, plus the unbelievable promises — bigger breasts, lose fat in 14 days, six-pack abs in two months, acne banished in 30 days.

  • Advertisements in teen magazines are designed to sell teens a product by any means possible.

  • SEX SELLS. We have to remember that the bottom line is profit.

Get Active!

  • Raise awareness in your community about the negative effects of TV on children.

  • Talk to teachers and administrators about media awareness programs for children in your area.

  • Get children involved in art, sports, dance, music, or play activities in your neighborhood, school, or community. Start a program if none exist.

  • Watch what children are watching on TV. Talk with them about the advertising - ask questions and listen to the answers!

  • Take children to the toy store and talk about the promises the commercial made about a product. Compare the expectations the children have and what the product delivers.

  • Watch a movie instead of commercial TV. Rent or buy some favorites and watch them together.

  • Go outside and play - great for everybody!

  • Read to children. Allow their imaginations to soar!

  • Look at the magazines your teen is reading. Talk to your teen about the ads (and articles) and what they think about the content of the ad. Does the ad really address the product?
Source: The Center for Media Education, which closed in 2003, provided the information on children and television.

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