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Is using children in advertisements acceptable?

When taking a look at international guidelines not one but many would agree that they are strict. But in the Sri Lankan context, are there any guidelines as such? And if so what are they? Is it ethically acceptable to use children in TV commercials? The Daily Mirror  consulted the opinions of a few experts and the general public regarding this topic.


sing children in TV commercials have become a common practice and today there is rarely a commercial without children. 
Children are an asset to society. Their upbringing is strongly influenced by society. Although it is understood that many advertisers want to market their products does it really mean that they need to deprive these children’s future? 
Children can be abused and exploited in these settings: Professor Harendra De Silva
Former Chairman of the National Child Protection Authority (NCPA) Professor Harendra De Silva said that some people could be extremists and would say no children for TV commercials while others would say no children should be used for movies or dramas. 
“Then there’s a question arising as to whether there can be any family movies without children. When you go out in to reality the situation is not as pleasant as you see.


Children can be exploited and abused in these settings. 
“In the case of advertisements, the child doesn’t get any money. The money is used by the managers or parents and nothing is saved for the future of the child. 
“There should be a screening process to see in which commercials these children should be used. If we get a child in a commercial that promotes condoms, then that is bad; Similarly if a child is used in a commercial promoting unhealthy food products such as carbonated drinks, then they are also spreading a wrong message. 
“If you take family movies, children might not be affected by one dialogue but the entire movie will have an impact on the child. It is reasonable as long as the child is not harmed. While in the studio the child will be exposed to various kinds of harassment and abuse. There need to be national guidelines which should not be decided by politicians but professionals,” he said.
“On the other hand, children should not be used for election campaigns as well. There is a strong message of racism being spread through these campaigns.  
“Another issue is the use of children in insurance advertisements. Here the insurance company plays with the emotions. They show a happy family and then the father clutches the chest and then there is a white flag. Again there is an adult who has obtained a degree and it goes on and on. 
“There are many criticisms with this regard and in the end what I need to tell is that children should never be harmed in any of these circumstances,” Professor Harendra De Silva said.


We only consider parental and social concerns: Leading advertising agency 

When asked as to whether there are any ethical guidelines they follow when using children in advertisements, one of the largest advertising agency networks in the island responded saying that they were not aware of any kind of ethical instructions. 
“We have carefully given attention to parental and social concerns when using children for advertising and we are only concerned about that.” 



Advertisers have special responsibilities: Sarva Integrated official  
An official of the Sarva Integrated Private Limited, another leading advertising firm in the country said that the laws had no clear instructions regarding children and advertising. 
“The regulations do not have ethical instructions that should guide companies for children when they are used in advertising. However, there are globally accepted ethical guide lines such as those formulated by the Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU). These guide lines are globally recognized and according to the official web site of CARU, these are based on core principles.”
“Advertisers have special responsibilities when advertising to children or collecting data from children online. They should take into account the limited knowledge, experience, sophistication and maturity of the audience to which the message is directed. They should recognize that younger children have a limited capacity to evaluate the credibility of information, may not understand the persuasive intent of advertising, and may not even understand that they are being subject to advertising. 
“Advertising should be neither deceptive nor unfair to the children to whom it is directed. These terms are applied under the Federal Trade Commission Act. Advertisers should have adequate substantiation for objective advertising claims, as those claims are reasonably interpreted by the children to whom they are directed. Advertising should not stimulate children’s unreasonable expectations about product quality or performance. Products and content inappropriate for children should not be advertised directly to them. 
“Advertisers should avoid social stereotyping and appeals to prejudice and are encouraged to incorporate minority and other groups in advertisements and to present positive role models whenever possible. They are also encouraged to capitalize on the potential of advertising to serve an educational role and influence positive personal qualities and behaviours children.” 
“If authorities could familiarize ethical guidelines that would help to secure the market, advertisers and the society, then it would positively impact the society as a whole. There are many influences that affect a child’s personal and social development and when children get advertised, they would influence decision makers. This is a global issue and it is a prime responsibility of the parents to provide guidance to children and advertisers who should contribute to this parent- child relationship using a constructive and creative approach.” 

Pics by Waruna Wanniarachchi

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