Educating Our Children About Advertising

The other day, my husband and I were out for a date – sans children – which usually involves dinner at a restaurant and a trip to Home Depot or other home improvement store. We decided to be wild and crazy and change our retail destination – we went to Shopper’s Drug Mart instead. As we regrouped in the car after the excitement of not having the children ask for special bandaids, bubble bath or snacks, we both commented on the tween girl who was in the entrance of the store.

While hubby expressed a sigh of relief at not having a daughter who may dress inappropriately, I was distressed with what she was intently reading – body bronzing cream promoted by a celebrity. I recognize that our children are exposed to advertising everywhere and in many instances don’t recognize that it is advertising and that the messages are trying to persuade them to do/ buy something that may not be as good as it seems (Hot Wheels Colour Changing Station – sort of), (Sketchers -shoes that breathe and fall apart) or necessarily needed by them.  How can we help them navigate this world of messaging?

Here are a few ideas:

1) – Spend time with your tween to help them learn about advertising and helping them interpret the messages that they are receiving. The US Federal  Trade Commission has created this site to educate tweens (kids ages 8 to 12) about advertising so they can become more discerning consumers of information. The goal of the campaign is to boost advertising literacy by:

  • Raising awareness of advertising and marketing messages
  • Teaching critical thinking skills that will allow tweens to better analyze and interpret advertisements
  • Demonstrating the benefits of being an informed consumer

Visitors play a game that can be fun and educational. I found it to be a good start at explaining messaging and it acted as a facilitator to an indepth conversation with my 8 year old. .

2)    Save their money and spend it on 1 item that they have seen and they are nagging for having seen it in a magazine, on tv or instore. Once they have tired of it, ask them what they thought about the item – was it as good as they expected? If not why not?

I welcome your ideas, experiences on this topic.


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