In Brief

Psychologists have an ethical duty to counter advertising's potential harm to children, argued APA's 2005 Graduate Student Ethics Prize winner Juli B. Kramer in her award address at APA's 2005 Annual Convention.

Why? Psychological research links consumerism to depression and anxiety disorders among youth, who the advertising industry targets with $12 billion worth of advertising each year. With children's self-esteem and mental health at stake, psychologists have an obligation to "build trust in the community" on this issue by helping parents arm their children against consumerism and by taking action against harmful mass marketing, said Kramer.

Kramer, a University of Denver counseling psychology student, won $1,000 and a round-trip ticket to and three nights stay at the convention for her paper "Ethical Analysis and Recommended Action in Response to the Dangers Associated with Youth Consumerism."

In her paper, Kramer encourages psychologists who conduct research on children for advertisers to communicate with the public about their methodology so parents can better understand what's happening behind the scenes to market toys, food and clothes to their children. Kramer also called for more research on consumerism's ties to children's mental health and self-esteem and recommended psychologists develop a school-based curriculum to teach children media literacy.

"Is this the legacy that we want to leave to our kids, to not speak against consumerism and marketing to our youth?" asked Kramer. "Is that okay with us, or can we take action to help?"

The Graduate Student Ethics Prize annually honors the best student paper on psychology and ethics and is sponsored by APA's Ethics Committee and the American Psychological Association of Graduate Students. The journal Ethics and Behavior will publish Kramer's paper in 2006.