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Leave Children Alone
   2015-08-31 11:08:52    CRIENGLISH.com      Web Editor: Liu Ranran

By Liu Yan

The time has finally come. The newly amended Chinese advertising law will go into effect tomorrow (September 1, 2015). This marks the first major revision of the advertising law since it was introduced to the Chinese masses back in 1995.

Significant changes are to be expected. After all, China has been developing at breakneck speed in the past two decades, and we need the new law to reflect the changing times. Some of the examples that come to mind include: prohibition of misleading advertising; restrictions on advertising healthcare food and breast milk substitutes; restrictions on Internet advertising in the form of pop-up windows etc.

However, what really stands out for me is the new law's emphasis on protecting the minors. In particular, children under the age of 10 must not be engaged as an endorser.

A-freakin'-men! It's about time people stopped taking advantage of children.

I'm not a parent, but I have always felt strongly about adults using children as cash cows. First of all, using any human being as a cash cow is despicable. If you want to get rich, use your own talent, rely on your own hard work. That's the only legitimate way in my book. Don't bring up publicists or agents. Sure, they make a living off of their clients, but it takes real talent and effort to turn someone into a star and keep them in the limelight. So those clients aren't exactly getting the short end of the stick, are they?

Second, taking advantage of a child who doesn't know the concept of "self-protection" is even worse than taking advantage of a human being in general. Just think about it. If you are under the age of 10, chances are, you don't even understand all the characters in an advertising contract. Then how can you know what you are getting yourself into when you endorse a certain product? What if it's a shoddy product and causes irreparable damage? Say, someone dies because of it? Do you think you are ready to defend and protect yourself when accusations pour in? Can you handle the pressure? Should you?

Third, even if the adults have no ulterior motives here (let's say the ads people simply want the kid endorser because he or she is cute as a button, and the parents say yes to the project because they think their kid enjoys being in front of a camera), this is still more likely to hurt, rather than benefit the child. I mean, can you imagine how much scrutiny a child star faces when growing up? Contrary to the popular Chinese saying "ch mng yo chn zo" (you'd better get famous while young), it's generally not a good thing to become a household name at an early age. Lindsay Lohan and Macaulay Culkin are two particularly famous examples. They acquired fame during childhood, and everybody believed the world was their oyster. Look what happened.

For me, that's the crux of the matter. Children are innocent, and we shouldn't expect them to see the worst case scenario. But adults should know better, and it is their responsibility to keep children out of trouble and danger. And what bigger trouble and danger is there than a gazillion people watching and judging a child's every move? Your child may be the adorable kid in that funny commercial today, but she can also be the next Lindsay Lohan tomorrow. That's what fame could do to a child. You never know.

And that also explains why I can't stand reality shows that prominently and shamelessly feature children, such as the ratings juggernaut Dad, Where Are We Going? I'm not even following it, and yet I have heard all about the drama surrounding Francis Ng, Gary Chaw and their respective children. Is it really good for any of those kids to see their father being attacked or called names? Are they going to remember the experience of being tabloid fodder with fondness? No, I don't think so. Scarred for life is more like it.

Granted, endorsing a product is a far cry from doing reality shows, but one thing is the same: a child is exposed to unnecessary danger. That's almost surely a bad thing. In my humble opinion, there is only one exception where it is okay for children to put themselves out there. That is, if they are blessed with a natural gift of acting and acting also happens to be their true calling. But then again, that only applies to child actors, not child stars who endorse products.

Now, some people worry that the new law may present practical difficulties for advertisers targeting children under the age of 10. For example, if you are trying to advertise a pacifier, it wouldn't make sense to use someone who's not a baby.

That is a reasonable concern, but if you take a closer look at the wording of the new law, you should rest easy. It only says children under the age of 10 must not be engaged as an endorser. It doesn't say they can't appear in ads or commercials, period. If there is a good story, and a certain character needs to be under the age of 10, then by all means use someone in that age group. Just don't ask that child to endorse the product. Let viewers remember the product by telling them a good story that strikes a chord.

Yep, that's what I'm talking about. There is a fine line between "not using children" and "not taking advantage of children". Fair's fair.

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