Ad Literacy for Kids

There’s an article, Ad Literacy 101 on Babble, about five recommendations for parents to teach their children about advertising.

I know I use many of these methods in everyday life with my kids. I’ll give a brief recap and explain how I use the method. You can go read the article in its entirety for further information.

1. Identification. This is when you point out something as an ad for your kids. Because, like, they don’t know the difference between an ad and a product or an ad and legitimate content unless you tell them. Sure, obviously, there are commercials on TV. But, there are also ads on the sidebar of Webkinz and other Internet games that need to be pointed out. There are ads on milk, string cheese and socks. If there is a character logo – say Hannah Montana or Sponge Bob – differentiating two identical products, it takes some doing to point out that the cheese or sugar drink is exactly the same inside. Even the rewards in school, free kids meal from Pizza Hut for instance, or free logoed stickers and pencils are ads. Kids need to know that.

2) Intent. Why do you think the High School Musical logo is on that can of soda? You might ask your kid. To trick kids into thinking it’s cooler than the other package of soda, so they will buy more, and spend more money. Kids don’t know that unless you tell them. Advertising is to make more money for companies that may or may not care about what’s best for kids, is a really good lesson.

3) Origin How did that ad get there and where did it come from and what are they trying to get? Hmm. Well, a pizza company might realize that parents are very likely to buy pizza for themselves and the rest of the family if they give kids a free pizza. So they would put the ad in schools, as a reward for reading, to lure families in. Or another example: Fox News might say they just love our private insurance industry because maybe the insurance and medical industries are spending billions of dollars in advertising on Fox News. Kids need to know what would motivate an advertiser. Usually, its money rather than the welfare of the consumer. Kids should be aware of that.

4) Audience Do you think the free ice cream cone with purchase of an adult meal coupon ended up in your school on accident? Or maybe they put it there knowing its very hard for parents to resist kids pleas for “free” ice cream? Why do you think companies put the Box Tops 10 cent donation to your schools on the most expensive box of cereal rather than the cheapest? Do you think they landed there on accident? Or to encourage people to spend more money on cereal or zip lock baggies? Why do you think a company might put a sexualized, inappropriate Burger King ad for kids meals on American Idol? Could it be that they know 30 million little kids are watching and they want them to attach their sexual feelings to hamburgers? Yeah, maybe they are that sick. And maybe, just maybe, Simon and Paula don’t like Coke, but that cup of Coke, always present, is advertising too.

5) Tactics Talk to your kids about the tactics advertisers use to sell products to them – like exploiting their sexuality by making hamburgers and beer sexually attractive, making high interest credit cards seem like an educational idea, or that universal health care will end in death panels and only dumb people will become doctors, or that all the other girls in the world are a perfect size 0 and never eat.

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