I Want That!: Parents Offer Tips for Talking with Kids About Advertising
We were in a store and (my five-year-old daughter) actually said, ‘I saw that in a commercial, I need it.’ It’s that blatant,” recalls San Francisco mother Lauren Smith. “I’ll ask her why she needs it, what she’s going to do with it, and then she cares less about it. She realizes she doesn’t need it just because some girl on TV with glitter in her hair said it was cool.”
“We want children to learn to think for themselves, and we want them to know they’re being influenced (by ads),” says Tessa Jolls, president of the Center for Media Literacy. “We teach them to ask, ‘What am I seeing? What am I hearing?’”
The average child in the US sees 40,000 commercials a year on TV alone, says the media literacy group Common Sense Media. And 80% of those commercials are for fast food, candy, cereal, and toys.
“The goal is to have parents, not media, remain the main influence in kids’ lives,” says Rebecca Randall, outreach director for Common Sense Media. “Kids love media, so when parents embrace their kids’ world, there’s an opportunity to talk about their world. Parents can counteract media by interacting with kids” while they watch TV or surf online, she adds.
Limit TV time—and the products it sells
Oakland mom Maria Manou says her six- and seven-year-old kids “want everything! If it’s cool, they want it. I tell them if they still want it at Christmas or for their birthday, maybe they can have it.” They don’t pout as much about not getting toys right away, adds her husband, Eric Manou, when they think about it long-term.
The Manous let their children help make smaller decisions, such as what cereal to buy. But at the store “they’ll say, ‘I saw that on TV, I want that,’” says Eric. “A lot of kids’ cereals come with a toy—I point out that they don’t need some junk toy.”
Humboldt County mother of two Katherine Fergus sets limits on TV and internet time for her five- and ten-year-old kids. She also doesn’t let them buy “clothing with advertisements. There’s plenty of great (clothes) without that stuff,” she adds.
“On American Idol the judges have huge glasses of Coca Cola—kids absorb that message,” adds Randall. But “if kids can interpret media messages, they’re more aware and they can recognize and avoid more negative messages.”
Reprinted with the permission of the Action Alliance for Children.
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