Kids are bombarded with advertising messages everywhere they turn. Helping them understand how advertising works can help protect them from being exploited by advertisers.
Start by teaching kids under 7 the difference between a TV show and a commercial. Point out commercials, and use a timer to show them when the commercial begins and ends. Ask questions to help them recognize that the commercial's purpose is to sell them a product. What is the commercial selling? How does the commercial make them feel? Would they like to buy the product?
Once kids understand that advertising is about persuading them to buy a product, they can begin to identify other types of advertising messages -- such as product placement, Web site games, and guerilla marketing. Watch television or play a video game with your child, and find the products and logos used as a prop or part of the storyline. Have a conversation about how the messages try to get you to buy the product. Here are a few tips to get the conversation started.
1. Share Some Facts:
- Kids see more than 250,000 commercials aimed at their appearance by age 17.
- The food and beverage industry spends more than $10 billion targeting children and youths though TV ads, coupons, contests, public relations promotions, and packaging.
- 80% of TV commercials are for fast food, candy, cereal and toys.
- Ask them who they think created the ad and why they're sending the messages they are. Who makes money from the ads?
- What tricks do your kids think were used by the advertiser to make them want to buy the products being promoted? Does the ad use a favorite celebrity? Does it have some feelings associated with the product -- like happiness?
- What isn't the ad telling them? Calorie count missing? Alcohol illegal for people under age 21? The featured video game costs a mint? Your kids don't want to feel suckered any more than you do.
Ad-proofing your kids means that they'll have more freedom of choice about which messages they choose to listen to -- and which they don't.
Common Sense Media is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing information to help parents make media and entertainment choices for their families.