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Ads, Kids And The Nag Factor

Last year advertisers spent about $2 billion on commercials targeting children. Kids, in turn, influence millions of their parents' spending dollars.

But do these commercials make children too materialistic? Or do parents simply let kids buy or have more than they need?

CBS This Morning Correspondent Russ Mitchell spoke about these issues with Betsy Taylor, executive director of The Center for a New American Dream.

A recent poll commissioned by Taylor's center found that 87 percent of the parents surveyed say advertising and marketing geared to kids ages 2 to 17 makes them too materialistic.

"There's so much more advertising going to children now through movies, through all kinds of advertising. And what we found is parents are very concerned that advertising is hurting their children's values," Taylor says.

According to the poll, advertising puts pressure on families to work longer hours to pay for all the goods. "The advertising is creating a generation of hyper-consumers that the environment can't sustain," she says.

Almost half of the parents surveyed said that their children began asking for name brands by age 5.

"Two-thirds of the parents said their own children define their self-worth through material possessions. One out of five children, who are 2- or 3-year-old are asking for brand-name products. That shocked me," says Taylor.

Parents are concerned that the $2 billion dollars spent advertising to children may hurt their self-esteem and have a negative effect on their values, Taylor says.

"Advertisers talk about increasing the 'nag factor'. Advertising is everywhere. We live in a commercial world but parents can protect their kids," says Taylor, adding that her organization's brochure gives parents strategies for trying to raise healthy kids in a commercial culture.

Taylor says there are no easy answers on handling the nagging that goes along with the "I got to have it." Here are some of her suggestions:

  • Talk to your kids about advertising.
  • Don't assume they're as savvy as you are about advertising,
  • Don't underestimate what they can understand.
"The next time you're watching a family program, look at the commercials and talk to your kids about the psychology of the ad. And just in a couple of days, even a 4-year-old or a 5-year-old can sit there and be more critical in the way they look at the difference between an ad and a program." Taylor says.

She also advises parents to try to create time not centered around commercial things.

"[Parents can] try to give their kids some shelter from the storm and reemphasize old-fashioned, simple fun that doesn't cost a dime," she says.

According to the poll, parents said that their children would rather go to the mall than hike in the woods. "Advertising to children has tripled since 1990. And, of course, look t every children's movie; it's about product tie-ins, so children need to be protected,"Taylor points out.

Kids not as exposed to advertisements have longer attention spans and a greater consciousness about the larger world, Taylor adds.

"Talk to [kids] about the environmental effect of all of us being tied up in this; they care about it. That will give them a deeper sense of why we should have some resistance to commercialism," Taylor says.

More information about The Center for a New American Dream is available at the nonprofit's Web site.

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