Kids and Advertising: I Want That and That and That

kids advertising tv

It's the parent's role to help children understand these messages and resist the influence of advertising.

TV is the main culprit in influencing our children to "want." After watching some of today's popular children's programming, it is easy to understand why there is a concern with childhood obesity and messages aimed at children in general.

A large share of advertising is directed at:

  • Foods of marginal or no value such as sugary cereals and juices, high-fat and high-sodium fast foods, and convenience foods
  • Toys that rarely create opportunities for truly imaginative play or active physical activities
  • "Trendy" clothing adorned with characters and logos
  • Advertising to encourage more TV or video watching

While there is educational programming of value for children and adults, TV has many images that we would prefer our children to gain some perspective on—from sensationalized violence to highly sexualized programming. Children develop an image of what the world is all about, what is real and what is not from their own actual experience and television.

What can you do?

Help Develop and Support Critical Thinking

As we help our children make choices, there are often many bouts of disagreement, rebellion, and discord along the way. As we go through life with them, in front of the TV and at the mall, we can help shape their thinking by sharing our thoughts and discovering theirs.

Ask your children questions about what they are watching. It may be very different from what you see. Ask them why they watch specific shows, what characters they like and don't like. Discuss the commercials and their perception of toys, cereals, and other products.

Teach Children to be Sensible Shoppers

  • Talk to your child about purchases before you enter a store. Have a list of what you plan to buy when you go to the grocery or department stores. Before you enter the store, remind your children of the specific items you plan to purchase.
  • Say "no" to impulse buys. It's easy for tired, busy parents to say "yes" to our children's pleading, demanding, and begging for items they want. Although "giving in" may momentarily stop their requests, keep in mind that your child will learn that persistent demands get results and "enough," never is. As parents, we tend to forget that our children's wants can never be satisfied. There will always be something "cooler" right in the next aisle.
  • Be judicious about purchasing "hot" character items. No parent can resist all of the attraction of children delighting in these purchases, but try and resist when you can if the items are not really needed.
  • Have your children earn and save money. It is always easier for children to spend our money. A Family Collection Jar can help your child save for a particular item he wants or maybe even donate to charity.
  • Create spending limits. We work hard and it feels good to buy things for our children. If you choose to let your child purchase an item, consider giving him a dollar amount, or at the grocery let your child choose just one thing. Help him make choices.
  • Examine your own spending habits. Children learn by watching us. How do we spend our money? How do we save? How do we respond to advertising?

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Written by: Bright Horizons Education Team

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