How To Help Your Children Understand Advertising

How To Help Your Children Understand Advertising

As grownups, we all know that what ads say isn’t always the precise truth. They always put the products in the best possible light. We understand what advertising is.

Little kids don’t think that way, of course. Many struggle with the idea that cartoons aren’t real. Do you think there’s any chance that they understand yet that commercials aren’t 100% true?

It’s a great idea to help your children understand advertising.

You can do this starting at an early age, and it’s a lot of fun once you start seeing results. There’s nothing like having a preschooler point out inaccuracies in advertising, especially when an ad is wildly unrealistic.

Why Do Companies Market To Kids?

Common Sense Media says that companies market to kids to build brand loyalty as early as possible. Also, the more platforms they can market on, the more chances they have that kids will see their products.

Children are more easily influenced than adults. If you spend much time with children, you know how true this is. That toy they never saw before the commercial aired is suddenly the thing they need most in the world.

Sometimes kids will express a strong opinion, but it won’t take much at all to make them change it. A toy they thought looked boring at the store becomes fascinating after they watch a YouTube video featuring it.

Now if it’s a meal you cooked that they just don’t want to eat, that’s another story. Kids can be stubborn about that stuff and it doesn’t matter that they liked the same food yesterday. That was then and this is now.

But convince a child that everyone wants a particular toy and they’ll want it too.

Common Sense Media also notes the problem with advertising to kids – it often makes them feel as though their self-worth depends on getting these things they’ve seen advertised.

child ads tablet

Why Should Children Understand Advertising?

It’s important that for children to understand advertising because they see so much of it. Worse, many ads give kids unrealistic expectations for toys and other products that they suddenly need above all else.

Advertising is everywhere. It’s on TV, the internet, apps, and just about everywhere kids go. Ads may be in the games they play. Shows they love may have products carefully placed to get attention.

Helping your children understand advertising makes your life easier too. When kids understand what ads are doing to them, the ads don’t work as well on them. With any luck at all, your kids won’t beg for as much stuff because they won’t feel the need for all the things they see in ads.

Understanding ads is also important for online safety. Clicking on an ad online can take your children to site you don’t want them on.

Explain Advertising to Them

Start out by explaining what ads are to them, and why companies advertise. It really helps if they understand why they’re seeing ads.

Use individual ads as examples. When the kids are really enthusiastic about a product ad they’ve just seen, ask them why. See if they understand how the ad gained their interest.

Talk about how the ads are making them feel and whether the actual item will make them feel that way. Ask if they really think the product will do exactly as claimed. Ask if similar products can probably do the exact same thing.

This is easiest with toys and can be very effective if they happen to have a few toys that they had seen advertised and were then disappointed in, or if the toy quickly lost their interest. Go over how the toy was advertised, and compare it to the real thing. You can also compare it to toys your kids already own.

child ads tablet

Help Them Understand How Language Is Used In Advertising

You know how devious promotional language can be. It’s usually true, but a truth stretched as far as the advertisers dared, and then exaggerated. Helping your kids to spot how this is done is not only good for their ability to understand advertising, it’s great for their vocabulary.

Talk to your kids about how individual ads make them feel about the product. This helps your children see the kind of power words can have, which may also help when discussing why some words are hurtful.

Don’t be surprised if the kids start to treat advertising as lying. It’s a pretty natural step. You can decide how to explain the difference between lying and what most ads do.

Be Aware of Product Placements

It’s not just ads during the commercial breaks you need to discuss. It’s the placement of products within the shows themselves.

This isn’t much of a problem during most cartoons, except in the sense that an awful lot of cartoons are all about selling the toys. Just look at the huge selection of toys available for some children’s shows.

But in other kinds of shows, you’ll see strategically placed and used products throughout the show.

Think about why their favorite characters are drinking a particular soda. Talk about the other brands that are clearly shown on camera. Explain that this is also a form of advertising, and the preferences shown on television have little to nothing to do with real life.

With the popularity of unboxing videos and such on YouTube, it’s even more important that children understand advertising. These videos are great at making children want things they didn’t know about before.

Ads and product placements may happen in the games your kids play too. Keep an eye out for these and talk about why the ads are placed there.

child ads phone

Discuss Alternatives

It’s helpful to remind kids that they don’t need everything they see advertised on television or online. Often enough, the reasons why are pretty simple.

Sometimes you already own the item advertised, or something similar to it. In this case, it’s easy to talk to your kids about why you don’t need more of that thing.

Other times, you can explain why it’s not worth it to spend money on the thing your kids saw advertised. If a fast food commercial makes your kids want to go out to lunch, you can talk about why it’s better to eat most meals at home, for example.

It can also come down to money. It’s okay to tell your kids that you know they want the thing, but you aren’t going to buy the thing. Children don’t need as many things as they ask for, no matter how much they disagree some days.

Ads try to make it seem so much like everything is needed, so teaching your kids that they don’t need it all is important. Help them learn that wanting and needing are two very different things.

child ads computer

It’s Not Just The Little Kids Who Need To Know

You may have covered this subject pretty well when your kids were little. But when was the last time you talked to them about ads as they’ve gotten older?

There are so many more places for kids to deal with advertising now than when my kids were little. Just think about it. Smartphones and tablets haven’t been a thing for that many years. Advertising has grown with these.

As kids get older, they may be influenced by what they think a favorite celebrity likes or by ads they see on social media. They see ads in the apps they use. Older kids are even tempted by contests to give away their email address for a slim chance at a prize.

Help your children continue to understand how these things are affecting them. If your child becomes interested in a particular brand, discuss why. Advertising may have something to do with it.

Teach your kids to think about the information advertisers are getting from them. If your kids do much online, it may be quite a bit, and that’s good for them to know.

It’s not just from filling out contest forms online. That’s a direct way for advertisers to get information, but not the only way.

It’s the sites your kid go to. The games that they play. The things they share on social media as well as the accounts they follow and the posts they like. Matter of fact, it’s pretty hard to keep from sharing information with advertisers, and that’s something kids should know.

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