How to Teach Kids About Advertising

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Last updated on July 25, 2019 Comments: 5

As I sat down to write this article, a commercial for an upcoming movie appeared on the television. Here was my thought process throughout the minute-long trailer. One: I recognize that voice. That’s Ben Stiller, who is adequate in comedies but better in movies that are slightly off mainstream. Two: The music in the background sounds nice. Three: The premise of this movie sounds interesting. I might be able to relate to it, or at least find the story interesting. Four: I think I’ll go see this movie. It might be the first decent movie I’ll see this year.

I consider myself a picky consumer, so I don’t pay too much attention to advertising — at least consciously. If I see this film, however, the marketing will have worked on me. I am likely in the target market for this movie.

Advertising can have effects worse than spending $10.50 on a movie in a theater. The Federal Trade Commission and the Bureau of Consumer Protection have come together to create a resource for parents to share with their children to help explain how advertising works to influence your decisions at Admongo. The site sets out with the goal to answer these questions: “Who makes ads? How do they work? What do they want you to do?”

Avoidance of advertising is practically impossible; education should focus on safe consumerism rather than abstinence from retail. As consumers grow more immune to traditional advertising, marketers will find more ways to infiltrate the minds of the public.

There are two keys to teaching children about how to think critically when faced with advertising.

When you encounter advertising, particularly if it’s somewhat disguised, discuss what the message is trying to convince you. When a company claims its product beats a competing brand, what does that mean? Are there any other questions you need to ask yourself? What is the marketing message not saying about the product?

As with anything you do as a parent, your actions will act as models. If you put a value on being an informed consumer through your interactions with this material world, there’s a good chance your children, with repeated encouragement and direction. will eventually see the value as well.

Just for fun, take a look at just a portion of all the advertising you are subjected to when attending a baseball game.

Citi Field Advertisements

Article comments

Anonymous says:

Thanks for the article on consumerism. I was a bit distracted reading it however. There was constant images flashing from the advertisement to the left of the article: Value City Furniture/THIS WEEK ONLY/Shop Now/ etc!

Ironic, right?

Anonymous says:

As bad as advertising is here, at least we’re not in Indonesia. Apparently cigarette advertising there is out of control. Toddlers are getting hooked on the stuff. Check out this story at Marginal Revolution:

Anonymous says:

Great article, Flexo. And thanks for the info about the FTC site. I had never heard of that.

Another idea for teaching kids about advertising, which I heard from someone else, is to play a game called “Identify the Lie.” I don’t believe all advertising contains lies, but in the game kids are encouraged to see if they can come up with anything being stated or implied that may not be true (“Will you really have friends that look like that if you wear that brand of clothes?”). It gets kids thinking about the underlying messages.

Luke Landes says:

Matt: That game sounds like a great idea. It should inspire some critical thinking… and cynicism, which comes in handy later in life. 🙂

Anonymous says:

Identify the lie… very interesting! I wonder if that’s good for kids though… giving them a pessimistic, and tainted view on life so early on.