Practice scanning skills with this text. You should be able to complete this exercise within three minutes.
As adults, how do we encourage our children to explore the rich resources of the Internet without exposing them to a steady stream of marketing messages, such as junk e-mail or sexually explicit material? This is a question that many people, especially parents, are struggling to answer. Although a solution has not yet been found, one possibility is to filter or block this objectionable material from children without interfering with the rights of adults to view and visit any website they like. When the US Supreme Court rejected the Communications Decency Act in June of 1997, industry and government officials alike looked to computer technology companies to create screening and filtering products to fill the gap left by this court decision.
Started in 1998, the Erasmus study set forth a plan for a family-friendly Internet that would include as a key element filtering, blocking and rating tools for parents, educators and other concerned adults. Much of the debate about appropriate content has focused on the spread of sexually explicit materials online, but there are other, equally insidious aspects. Now banned from an increasing number of traditional advertising markets, cigarette and alcohol companies have turned to cyberspace to reach their future market.
Virtually every major alcoholic beverage manufacturing company has an Internet website which developers claim targets adults of legal drinking age. Many alcohol companies ‘card’ visitors by requiring them to provide their date of birth before entering the site. Most sites also include a disclaimer on the opening screen indicating that visitors must be of legal drinking age. Many children, however, easily bypass these simple precautions by providing falsified birth date information to access these sites. Once inside, it is clear that these companies are creating an environment full of activities that can and do appeal to children and teens. On some sites, visitors are encouraged to play games, download screensavers, and enter draws to win a free T-shirt. Social, legal and political pressures have denied tobacco companies web-based marketing, but there is no shortage of sites devoted to the consumption and glorification of smoking cigarettes and cigars. Pictures of women smoking cigarettes appear on sites which feature cool ways to smoke and offer lessons in smoking ‘tricks’.
Although no one seems to know exactly the relationship between online marketing and alcohol and tobacco consumption, studies have shown advertising to be extremely effective in increasing youngsters’ awareness of, and emotional responses to, products, their recognition of certain brands, and their desire to use these advertised products. This trend becomes even more alarming when the relationships are created between children and spokespersons for alcohol and tobacco products. Alcohol and tobacco advertising and marketing practices are also a cause for concern, with many focusing on the industries’ successful efforts to target youth.
There is no easy solution to the problem, except to monitor online alcohol and tobacco promotions and develop any additional safeguards needed to protect youth that are already at risk. We are quickly moving into a digital age that will profoundly affect how children and youth grow and learn, what they value, and, ultimately, who they become. Helping our children and teens navigate in this digital culture presents both a challenge and an opportunity.
Practice scanning skills with these questions:
Answer the following questions using NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS AND / OR A NUMBER.
1. When was the Erasmus study launched?
Show answer 1998
2. When did the US Supreme Court overturn the Communications Decency Act?
Show answer (June) 1997
3. Name one way companies encourage viewers to surf their sites.
Show answer Play games OR download screensavers OR win T-shirts (you only need one of these)
4. What three pressures have prevented tobacco being marketed on the Internet?
Show answer Social, legal, political
5. Is the relationship between online marketing and the sale of alcohol clearly understood?
Show answer No (‘no one seems to know exactly the relationship between online marketing and alcohol and tobacco consumption’)