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The British Parliament passed legislation in 1874 intended to protect children from the efforts of merchants to induce them to buy products and assume debt.

Commercial appeals to children, however, did not become commonplace until the advent and widespread adoption of television and grew exponentially with the advent of cable television, which allowed programmers to develop entire channels of child-oriented programming and advertising. Many children also have unsupervised access to computers, meaning that much of the media (and advertising) content that children view is in contexts absent parental monitoring and supervision.

The more fundamental concern regarding the effects of advertising on children relates to questions of potential harm resulting from exposure.

A variety of research findings are relevant to this issue.

First, the individual must be able to distinguish between commercial and noncommercial content.