Why Children and Schools have to be Marketing-Free Zones

By Ambra Lanzi

I realized this year, while living for a few months in Italy with my son and occasionally watching television, that all children’s channels have several interruptions with commercial spots. It is needless to say that my son was repetetivly asking me to buy whatever he he was seeing on the screen.

This led me to reflect on how children are, in general and in every country, bombarded with messages that encourage them to consume, and, implicitly, to become living advertisements, from branded toys to TV shows and video games.

Research has shown that marketing and commercials influence children’s behaviors, preferences, and habits. More and more marketing strategies are targeting children, making them an agent of consumption and then a commercial and marketing vehicle.

Other findings show how exposure to advertising can interfere with cognitive processes such as attention, memory, and reasoning, which in turn can hinder learning. Moreover, the presence of commercialism in schools (such as corporate-sponsored educational materials) can undermine students’ critical thinking skills, and doing so, limiting their ability to learn. Research on language development shows that children replace commercial names with authentic language (“Nemo” vs. clownfish, “Thomas “ vs. steam engine), and even their health and eating habits are influenced by what they see.

The impact of commercial culture on children raises important questions for educators and parents, and stimulates the urgency to advocate for children. By raising our awareness and actively taking steps to limit their exposure, we can empower children to make independent choices and foster their critical thinking skills.

Parents can play a significant role by reevaluating their purchasing decisions and avoiding items that feature branded content. This includes being mindful of the clothes, toys, and other products they bring into their children’s lives. By reducing the presence of branded materials, parents can create an environment that promotes authentic experiences and independent thought.

Educators also have a responsibility to create commercial-free learning environments. This can be achieved by avoiding the use of branded materials in classrooms, such as books or decorations featuring popular TV show or movie characters. By prioritizing authentic learning experiences, educators can help students develop their critical thinking skills and encourage them to think beyond the influence of commercial culture.

In conclusion, by recognizing the impact of commercial culture on children and taking proactive steps as parents and educators, we can challenge the prevailing narrative of constant consumption. Creating a break from commercialism allows children to develop their own identities, make informed choices, and engage in meaningful learning experiences. Let us advocate for children’s well-being by fostering environments that prioritize their development over the influence of advertising.


  • Cook, Daniel. (2005). The Dichotomous Child in and of Commercial Culture. Childhood-a Global Journal of Child Research – CHILDHOOD. 12. 155-159. 10.1177/0907568205051901.
  • Lin, Susan (2003) Commercialism in the Lives of Children and Youth of Color: Education and Other Socialization Contexts , pp. 495-505. Journal of Negro Education
  • Calvert, Sandra. (2008). Children as Consumers: Advertising and Marketing. The Future of children / Center for the Future of Children, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. 18. 205-34. 10.1353/foc.0.0001.
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