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Teaching Kids About Advertising
And talking to them about advertising messages

It is no secret that corporations spend billions every year specifically targeting kids. Kids today have their own money to spend, if they don't they have their parents to nag! Advertisers also know that you can have a customer for life if you reach them early!

As a parent, you can start early too! Teaching your kids about advertising when they are young will help them control their finances and spend wisely for the rest of their lives. I have compiled some tips that can help you and your kids resist the massive advertising blitz.

  • Talk to your kids about advertising methods - One of the most effective is the human need to fit in. Playing on our insecurities to make us feel that their particular product will bring happiness and popularity is one of the oldest methods in the book! The pressure on kids to fit in is enormous. Talk to your kids about why they feel they need a product to get them to understand that purchasing that item probably will not do what they think.
  • Deconstruct television advertising - When a commercial airs, ask your kids about what they are trying to sell and how they are doing it. This will create an awareness of advertising tricks allowing them to "see through" the commercial for what it is. I have found this to be the best way to teach about advertising because not only is it fun, but promotes great conversations with your kids about money!
  • Limit television watching! - If the television is not on, there are no commercials to watch. One hour of television contains about 20 commercials. Hours of television watching, day after day, year after year, leads to tens of thousands of commercials! It's much better for them to be outdoors, reading books and developing active hobbies instead of passively sitting on the couch watching television.
  • Teach them that shopping is not a hobby - We've all heard stories of compulsive shoppers with rooms full of clothes and bags, some of them unopened from the store! Teach your kids that shopping is a necessity, not a hobby or sport.
  • Brand names aren't necessarily better - Brand names cost more. Sometimes they cost more because they are better. More often though, they are not. Advertisers want to make you think that there brand is better, even though other cheaper brands have the same quality. A great way to teach this is shopping in the grocery store with your kids. Have them read the ingredients of the brand name with the generic store brand. They will see they are almost exactly the same. You could even have blind taste tests between brand names and cheaper store alternatives!
  • Teach the value of money by helping your kids save - If they can relate to "their money" when considering a product, they might not want it so much!

More information to teach your kids about advertising messages

  1. Kids and consumerism - A page with information about how to raise independent minded kids.
  2. Media awareness network - Resources to help talk to your kids about different forms of media and pop culture, on TV, video games the internet and print.
  3. Advertising and kids - Site with some pages about marketing strategies used by advertisers, advice and some eye opening statistics about TV advertising.
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