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Advertising: Grade Schoolers

Girl watching TV

As your child grows up, advertising messages become influential sources of information about the world. TV commercials, radio ads and Web banners brim with messages about how to be cool, attractive or successful.

Though your gradeschooler can likely identify an ad—she can point to it and declare, "That's a commercial"—she may not be immune to its persuasion. To help your child understand the underlying messages she may be picking up from ads, talk about the reasons behind commercial communication. Point out how most ads aim to:

  • inform (give new facts or ideas);
  • entertain (make you laugh, create suspense, cause a reaction); and/or
  • persuade (influence behavior, change what you believe or shape the way you think).

5 Ways to Promote Ad Savvy

  1. When watching TV with your child, question the commercials.

    Voice your skepticism by posing questions such as these: Who do you think created this ad? What do you think the message is? What might the advertiser not be telling us? Do you think you can believe what you see? Start with obvious targets—ads promoting high-fat foods, for example—then move on to more subtle ads, such as those promoting a cool or attractive lifestyle. Explain how advertisements are often meant to make people feel that something is missing from their lives.
  2. Explain your family's purchases to your child.

    Help your child see why you buy certain items and not others. Guide him to an understanding that you are making conscious choices. Make it clear that the purchases you make reflect the values you hold.
  3. Encourage your child to question what's left out of an advertising message.

    Point out when an ad is unrealistic or promotes a stereotype: What is the company not telling us? Do you know anyone who looks like that? Anyone who lives like that?
  4. Foster skepticism about new forms of advertising on the Web.

    Some commercial elements are obvious—an ad banner, for example, or a Web site that prominently features products. Other commercial elements, however, are less clear; they include interactive bots—electronic creatures that appear on a computer desktop to promote a product—as well as entire sites that collect children's opinions as research for clients. Remind your child never to give out personal information online. Finally, help your child appreciate that what looks real on screen may be just the opposite in real life.
  5. Let your child hear you speak out against aggressive advertising.

    Point out ads that appear in venues you consider inappropriate—especially those commercial messages you or your kids may encounter in schools, museums or other public places.
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