Congress Looks at Ads in Schools

ByABC News
September 14, 2000, 1:30 PM

Sept. 14 -- Ads of all shapes and sizes are appearing these days all over schools at soda machines, in hallways, on football scoreboards, even on in-house TV.

More and more American schools are taking advantage of extra cash doled out by companies and corporations in exchange for the ads, according to a report released today by the General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress.

The report did not say whether such ads were appropriate. It reported that many companies, while showing ads, were gathering such information as addresses, ZIP codes and purchasing habits fromstudents, sometimes without the knowledge of school officials who contractedwith the companies.

Also, the officials rarely needed permission from parents or others to use commercial products, the report said.

The findings bother critics.

The failure of society to properly fund those schools should not be subsidized by selling the privacy of these children and their families, Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., said today.

The ads appear anywhere from school roofs, to computers, to hallways. In return, the schools get money, products and services from companies that place the ads, which school administrators say they desperately need.

A Difficult Bargain

Critics say children are particularly susceptible to advertising in schools because children and youth are an enormous potential market and schools are a place where they hang out. And when theyre in schools they cant escape, said Alex Molnar, education professor at the University of Wisconsin.

This makes them very attractive to advertisers a captive audience that can be manipulated, bombarded, used for a variety of advertising messages.

Id say its evil, he said. You have sophisticated psychological techniques and tons of money devoted to manipulating 6, 7 and 8-year-olds to do things which arent necessarily healthful to them.