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Should Companies Market to Children?

As an employee for a company who’s very involved in marketing, and a mother, I came across a lot of forums complaining about how kids are being marketed to for certain sugary cereals, expensive toys, and elaborate games.  At first, I too thought, wow, who would even be marketing to kids?  They don’t even understand.  After thinking about it for a second, I nearly slapped myself in the forehead because I’d completely forgotten about commercials (my daughter is still too young to be asking me for the toys on TV).  I quickly thought, well, from the marketing perspective, yes, that’s a great idea!  Of course, I completely disagree with making smoking look cool (which I think hated this at one point, and is why they are no longer allowed to advertise smoking on TV), and I also disagree with advertising unhealthy cereal to kids, especially with the obesity rate so high.  However, what’s wrong with marketing to children if the product being promoted is completely harmless?  Everyone who markets a product or service has to find a certain demographic to market to.  It wouldn’t make sense to advertise a bubble blower or an activity table to a 40 year old CEO.  Some argue that advertising is more or less instilling materialistic values into children at an early age.  While I can definitely understand that opinion, it prompts me to ask, isn’t that what children have parents for?  I think that as parents, we have a duty to teach our children not to be materialistic.  There’s nothing wrong with a child asking for a toy on television.  However, the parent can either run out to the store and purchase the toy, or the parent can tell their child they must work for it through good behavior and chores.  So, on the subject of marketing to children, and the question of whether or not it’s ethical, I say, take a look at the ethics of the entire situation and all of its tangents.  Where do you stand?