Advertisements Targeted Toward Teens are Harmful


Cassandra Bristol, Opinions Editor

Everyone knows that targeted advertisements are annoying. But it is often overlooked how harmful ads are when it comes to teenagers. Whether they’re perpetuated by massive corporations or even the U.S. government itself, more regulation should be placed on advertisements, especially when they could be causing irreversible harm to young people.

Firstly, while military recruitment is a high priority for the American government, the way that recruitment ads target impressionable teens to sign up for something they may not fully understand is extremely alarming. Take the military’s presence on Twitch. Not only do they sponsor streams, according to The Verge, but the military branches also have their own Twitch channels, where recruiters stream games while trying to persuade young viewers into signing their lives away. In fact, they even went so far as to host a fake giveaway for an Xbox Elite Series 2 controller, the link to which simply led to a military recruitment form with no mention of the giveaway in sight. The account also bans chatters that comment negative truths about past U.S. military action (which poses a question about a potential violation to the first amendment). This is a prime example of political propaganda (

Whether the intentions of these campaigns are in “good faith” or not, the reality is that a generation of young people are seeing these streams, being convinced that the military is a good place for people like them, and signing up for something they may not realize the full extent of. Sophomore Jose Wicklund said, “The military should stop taking extreme measures when it comes to recruitment because not everybody wants to join. Nobody should feel pressured to sign up.” Joining the military should be a decision that should be influenced by a person’s own values, aspirations, and goals in life, not somebody else’s, so recruiters should be held accountable for corruption.

Another entity which targets teenagers in their ad campaigns is nicotine companies. According to Healthline, it is illegal to target teens in tobacco ads, but the emergence of online ads opens a whole new can of worms. With e-cigarettes being portrayed as a healthy alternative to your traditional Marlboro Light, it’s easy for teenagers who want to experiment to get sucked down this trap. Not only that, but with celebrities and influencers seen left and right vlogging with one hand and wielding a Puff Bar in the other, the normalization of vaping is rapidly becoming reality (

This isn’t to say that preventative measures haven’t been tried. If you are under the age of 18, there is no doubt that you have been bombarded with “The Real Cost” ads all over Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube. Here is the issue: they don’t work in the slightest. A Forbes article compares many anti-vaping ad tactics to an episode in the show South Park. In the episode, a school assembly features two adults wearing sideways hats, and attempting to appeal to youth, saying that if the kids chose to stay away from cigarettes, they would end up being just as cool as them. Subsequently, the students race to a back alley to smoke as many cigarettes as possible, fearing that they would end up like the adults if they didn’t. While it is humorous, there is truth to this hyperbole. If ads are framed so poorly and come from a perspective that is trying so hard to appeal to teens that it does the opposite, vaping will only increase. Nobody is going to take an anti-vaping campaign seriously if it isn’t up front and honest, without using cringey and outdated social appeal.

What options are left? Military recruitment ads can’t really be combated by an outside source because, well, the U.S. government sort of runs the whole thing, and nicotine ads can be combated by an outside source, but this is almost always done absolutely terribly. So, it’s time to crack down and further regulate online advertisements that target teenagers. Social media websites must stop collecting user information in order to curate the most enticing ads for teens, military recruitment should be considered a deeply serious conversation with many sides to consider (not one to be done on an e-sports stream), and vaping should exclusively be portrayed as a way to quit smoking, not as some fun recreational addiction.