Spain against gender stereotype advertising for children’s and young people’s toys

In toy commercials, little girls dressed in pink often stand in pink doll kitchens and cultivate household chores, while little boys in dark pants and shirts with superhero prints powerfully kick footballs all over the court. In Spain, this will change from December this year as a result of a voluntary commitment from the Toy Association. There are advertisements for children’s products aimed at avoiding sexism and sexualization of girls. In addition, advertising for under-14s on mobile devices must be completed.

On 1 December 2022, the “Código de autorregulación de la publicidad infantil de juguetes” (Code for the self-regulation of toy advertising for children) will enter into force, after which the Ministry of Consumer Affairs and the Spanish Association of Toy Manufacturers, the Spanish Toy Manufacturers Association (AEFJ) have agreed.

This Code aims to protect young people under the age of 15 from advertisements showing prejudice and fixed gender roles as well as discriminatory, bullying or content that sexualises girls. Children under the age of 14 should no longer receive advertisements aimed at them, for example on mobile phones. Particular attention should be paid to children under the age of 7 and their protection, as they are considered to be particularly vulnerable. Existing ads will have a transition period until December 1, 2023 to adapt existing subjects to the new requirements.

In the future, advertising for children’s and young people’s toys should become more equal, honest and constructive. This means that products that revolve around housekeeping, care and beauty should not be offered as items for girls and toys that promise action, sports and technology, should not be advertised explicitly or even implicitly for boys. Color assignments based on gender are no longer allowed. The language used in advertising should be inclusive and describe the products advertised in a way that minors can understand. The recommended age of the toy must be stated. Girls should also no longer be allowed to be sexualized in commercials.

The new honesty in commercials should also include characters that are popular with children and young people, whether they are fictional cartoon dogs or humans, for example from the fields of music, sports or moderation. Like influencers, they should no longer be allowed to associate products with greater devotion or social acceptance. The Code states that minors should not be led to believe that the advertised product will give them strength, status, prestige, popularity, growth, increased intelligence or any other ability. Instead, positive models should be established that encourage healthy, responsible and sustainable consumption. Compulsive accumulation of toys should be prevented.

In addition, pictograms in the advertisement or on the toy must provide additional information about the product and the advertisement. Images are used to show whether the toy requires batteries, or whether it should be purchased separately, which product from the ad is in the box, and what, if any, should be purchased separately, whether computer animation has been used in the ad, whether the toy should still be assembled or is bought ready to play with, whether it should be charged from an external power source and what the price range of the product is: A yellow dot indicates toys over 50 euros, an orange dot for products over 150 euros and a dark red dot indicates a purchase price of over 300 euros .

With this agreement, Spain sees itself as a role model for Europe. Whether and how the implementation will work is still unknown. In the toy industry, responsible and sustainable consumption tends to mean lower sales.

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