Ethics of Marketing to Children

We recently talked about ethics in online marketing. One of the issues that we did not touch in depth was marketing to children. I find this topic interesting because it is a grey area, not only in online marketing but marketing in general. Are rules enough to control potential adverse marketing to children or should companies stop marketing to children at all? There are certain formal rules as the ones created by the Children’s Online Protection Act that aim to protect children in this realm. From my perspective, even if these rules seem to be useful for creating a more ethical behavior in marketing to children, companies can go around them. The article “The Ethics of Online Marketing to Kids” by Macklin (2006) goes through some of these rules; one of them being: “Advertisers should always take into account the level of knowledge, sophistication and maturity of the audience to which their message is primarily directed” (para.8).  In this one, for example, one could ask who defines the level of maturity of children? Advertisers? This makes the boundaries vague for companies, and this could lead to unethical behavior. So basically, even if rules exist, the choice still lies on businesses. Other questions regarding this could be made. For example, what about the ads that are targeted at an older audience but reach children? Can companies actually control this?

Works cited
Macklin, B. (2006). The Ethics of Online Marketing to Kids. Retrieved from



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One Response to Ethics of Marketing to Children

  1. This is a really interesting topic, especially now that Facebook is going after younger audiences with “Messenger Kids”

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