What Are Some Negative Effects of Advertising on Teenagers?

The negative effects of advertising on teenagers include increased cigarette and alcohol use, obesity, poor nutrition and eating disorders, according to Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Prescription drug advertisements also encourage adolescents and children to believe that drugs are the cure for all their problems.

Exposure to tobacco advertising is a bigger risk factor for tobacco use amongst adolescents than having friends or family who smoke, Pediatrics notes. Tobacco advertisements also undermine strong parental efforts to discourage teen smoking. Approximately one-third of adolescent smoking is attributable to tobacco advertisement. Evidence demonstrates that tobacco companies specifically target adolescents. Research has also found that exposure to alcohol advertisement is a direct cause of increased adolescent drinking.

Poor nutrition, obesity and eating disorders amongst adolescents have also been linked to advertisement, explains Pediatrics. Approximately 50 percent of television advertisements viewed by teenagers are for food. Of these, less than 3 percent are for healthy food. Television advertisement is loaded with commercials for sugary cereals and high-calorie snacks. These advertisements are linked to teen obesity.

Anorexia amongst adolescent girls has also been linked to advertising. The majority of models appearing in advertisements are unusually thin. Adolescent girls often try to emulate these models, which is unrealistic for most girls. The result is often an eating disorder.

Possible negative effects of advertising to teenagers includes lowering self-esteem, increasing peer pressure, making teens susceptible to violent behavior and reinforcing stereotypes. The negativity of ads stems from their distorted projections of reality; advertisements present teenagers with images of ideal bodies, families and appearances, convincing teenagers of the need to look and act a certain way.

When targeting teenage audiences, brands attract interest in products using psychological strategies. They focus on common teenager issues, such as body image, desire for popularity and fitting in with peers and desire for a sense of belonging. Brands portray images of teenagers outside those norms in their ads. The teenagers in the advertisements then find solutions to their problems by using the companies' products, indicating the same benefits to viewers. Teenagers then convince their parents of needing certain products for trend-setting and fitting in with select crowds, resulting in over-spending.