Advertising and the law: are children protected?

Quebec legislation has prohibited commercial advertising to children under the age of 13 since 1978.

In Quebec, like in Norway and Sweden, the law protects children against the onslaught of advertising. Which isn't to say that children aren't exposed to every logo out there. Studies show that children recognize logos even before they can read. But that's not where the problem lies.

While adults are relatively used to having advertising in every part of their lives, children are more easily influenced by it. This is why the Office de la protection du consommateur (OPC), which enforces this law, writes that advertising can't help but have “major repercussions for children,” particularly given that it is ubiquitous.

Children can be exposed to over 40,000 TV ads a year. The OPC explains why it is important to take an interest in this:

  • Young children don't understand the difference between magic and reality. They tend to perceive and accept messages as representing reality.
  • For a young child, it is difficult to make the distinction between information and promotion.
  • Children are easy targets. The values and behaviours they adopt follow them into adulthood.

Advertising also has an effect on the behaviour of young children and pre-teens.


Studies show that the more time children spend in front of the television, the more their attitude toward unhealthy eating is positive.


Children who are regularly exposed to sexuality in an idealized environment try to reproduce the stereotyped male and female models. Often, they act precociously.


It is hard for children not to respond to the lure of consumption, and in the case of clothes, to the lure of the brand. If they don't have any guidance, they will experience frustration and anxiety that will have an impact on their self-esteem.

In short, the values conveyed by some ads distort the child's perception of reality. As an adult, helping them develop their autonomy and critical thinking is a long-term job, but one that's worth it, because children need to become responsible consumers too.

To do with children

Discover our educational activities about advertising: