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Cord Cutting, Kids & Commercials

With the many other benefits of cordcutting, here’s one that sometimes gets overlooked: cordcutting means your kids see fewer commercials. In fact, some kids don’t even know what TV advertising is.

But how much time are we talking about? And are commercials really bad for kids anyway? We have some answers. 

How Much Time Do Kids Spend Watching Commercials?

A recent report found that kids in Netflix only homes are saved from 230 hours of commercials per year. That’s about nine and a half straight days worth of ads. This report was about American kids, but the numbers in Canada aren’t much different. Here, kids two through eleven spend about 17 hours a week watching TV. If you have one kid watching traditional broadcast TV and another only streaming, the broadcast TV kid ends up seeing four and a half hours of commercials. 

Are Commercials Really Bad For Kids?

This is a tough question to answer. It’s hard to find studies that look at a big group of kids over a long period of time and figure out how exactly things are different for kids who watch a lot of commercials verses kids who don’t. However, there are some specific things we know. For example, some food advertising that targets children has been shown to increase the likelihood of childhood obesity. In fact, the issue is serious enough that advertising junk food has become a political issue

Kids and adolescents, especially girls, are also vulnerable to negative body image messaging in mass media. Commercials in particular are an area of concern to experts as they frequently cast physically “perfect” models or manipulate their images. 

Commercials don’t even have to target children to have an effect on them. For example, kids may see a lot of alcohol advertising. Studies have shown that exposure to lots of alcohol advertising doubles what adolescents drink when they start drinking. 

Another thing to keep in mind is that young children don’t really understand what advertising is. Before the age of eight, most kids don’t understand that advertising is trying to sell them something. They take ads at face value, or even think they’re real. 

Is There More Reading Available? 

There have been two major books written on the subject of children and advertising. 

Consuming Kids, by psychologist Susan Linn, looks at why children are an advertiser’s most popular demographic, how advertisers target children, and how they train kids to be really effective at nagging their parents. 

Sociologist Juliet Schor’s Born to Buy is about all the different ways childhood is commoditized. She writes about how ads change not just what kids what, but how they think and feel about themselves. 

The Bottom Line

Remember, cordcutting doesn’t automatically save kids from all advertising. There are still magazines, radio, and internet advertising. However, the fact that cordcutting saves kids from 230 hours of commercials per year is huge.