Advertisers’ attempts to build a “total advertising environment” around children through social networking, computer games, and other uses of digital technology are the focus of the latest report on commercialism in schools from researchers at Arizona State University and the University of Colorado at Boulder.
While most such efforts are normally aimed at reaching children in their homes or through their cellphones, the report also highlights some instances in which advertisers target schools. Those include ad-supported education Web sites, such as www.funbrain.com and www.FactMonster.com, and equipment donations that are made to schools with the stipulation that students spend time with the technology viewing or listening to commercial communication networks, such as Channel One, BusRadio, or Youth News Network.
The report also concludes that food ads dominate the advertising market to children online, in school, and on television—a trend the authors see as troubling, given growing rates of obesity among young children across the country.
“Parents have always been sensitive to the idea that schools might inculcate religious, social, and political values with which they disagree,” said Alex Molnar, the report’s lead author. “Yet every day in schools across the country, marketers use television and other sophisticated digital technologies to sell products and promote commercial values.”
The report was jointly produced by ASU’s Commercialism in Education Unit and the University of Colorado’s Education and the Public Interest Center.
A version of this article appeared in the October 14, 2009 edition of Education Week as Commercialism in Schools