How to Raise an Educated Consumer (page 2)

By — NYU Child Study Center
Updated on Jul 9, 2010

Special issues for school-age and older kids

To help children become financially savvy, give them a budget with a hypothetical amount of money to spend, and ask them to fit their wish list into this budget by checking catalogues and Web sites.

Talk about techniques, such as free samples, recommendations of sports or movie stars, commercials during favorite programs, marketers use to target kids. Many children feel pressured to keep up with the latest fashion or toys that their friends have.

Advertisers take advantage of the typical anxieties and self-doubts of pre-teens and teens by making them feel they need their product to feel "cool." To sensitize them to this trend and to highlight the effect that ads can have on people, discuss the following questions (adapted from the Media Awareness Network) with individual children or in a group:

  1. Do you ever feel bad about yourself for not owning something?
  2. Have you ever felt that people might like you more if you owned a certain item?
  3. Has an ad make you feel that you would like yourself more, or that others would like you more if you owned the product the ad is selling?
  4. Do you worry about your looks? Have you ever felt that people would like you more if your face, body, skin or hair looked different?
  5. Has an ad ever made you feel that you would like yourself more, or others would like you more, if you changed your appearance with the product the ad was selling?
  • Have children collect ads that promote a positive body image.
  • Discourage congregating in malls, which create an atmosphere of buying as a social activity.
  • Talk about the effects of consumerism on the environment, such as waste accumulation and disposal problems.

Cultivate the pleasure of giving

Make children aware that some children don't have many toys or material things.

Donate old toys and games to local community centers. Giving children money to donate to a cause of their own choosing teaches them to take on responsibility for themselves. Kids can learn that wealth comes from what is shared rather than from what is owned.

Projects such as donating to a charity can be a family tradition and teaches children that we are all responsible for helping others; collecting toys at holiday time, collecting art supplies and warm clothes for needy children, are some examples of activities for the family to work on together.

Be aware of your own feelings

Parents need to think about their own buying habits. Their own history of buying affects their approach to buying for their children. Some people who may have felt deprived of material goods when they were younger may buy too much for their own children. Others may go in the opposite direction. Some may use gifts to make up for feeling they are absent from their children's lives.

Kids want more time with their parents, not more things. Be a good role model-although kids are influenced by pop culture, media, sports personalities and movie stars, parents are still the most potent influence in children's lives. Spend time, not just money.

Helpful websites
A junior version of Consumer Reports where kids review and rate toys, crafts and games.

Don't Buy It!

Media Awareness Network

About the NYU Child Study Center

The New York University Child Study Center is dedicated to increasing the awareness of child and adolescent psychiatric disorders and improving the research necessary to advance the prevention, identification, and treatment of these disorders on a national scale. The Center offers expert psychiatric services for children, adolescents, young adults, and families with emphasis on early diagnosis and intervention. The Center's mission is to bridge the gap between science and practice, integrating the finest research with patient care and state-of-the-art training utilizing the resources of the New York University School of Medicine. The Child Study Center was founded in 1997 and established as the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry within the NYU School of Medicine in 2006. For more information, please call us at (212) 263-6622 or visit us at

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