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Ad-Proofing Your Kids

From our provider: CommonSenseMedia

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.
2. Give Your Kids Some Ad-Proofing Decoder Tips:

  • 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.
3. Point out the real consequences of ads:


  • How many calories are in that jumbo burger and soda and those extra-large fries?


  • How many hours of exercise would it take to burn those calories off? Do kids even know where excess calories that don't get used go? Might not be a bad idea to tell them.
  • 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.
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