Young Parents team
Being young and impressionable, your preschooler totally believes in TV commercials – and she probably wants you to buy her everything she sees. Of course, you know that the products aren’t always as good as they are portrayed. Your challenge is to teach her how to see through them.
You want her to learn the truth about advertising (ad literacy). Start your discussions by reminding her that not everything she sees on TV is real. Ask her to name some things that are pretend – she’ll quickly inform you that movies are make-believe and that other adventure programmes are not real. That way, you know she understands the difference between fact and fantasy.
Then chat about ads. Explain that although there are guidelines about the messages, one of a commercial’s aims is to present the product in the best possible light so that the viewers, like her, will want to buy it. It’s not that the advertisers are lying; it’s just that they deliberately over-emphasise the products’ strengths. That’s why, to some extent, commercials are the same as make-believe movies or TV programmes. Psychology Today has an enlightening article on how ads affect kids.
MAKE YOUR OWN AD
Sit and watch some commercials with your child, then talk about them. Ask her to consider a range of questions.
For instance, what did the advertisers do to make the product look its best? What would the item have looked like if there were different people in the ad, or if different colours had been used? Would she have felt differently about the product if the commercial used different music?
In other words, encourage your kid to take a critical approach. This is the start of teaching her ad literacy.
In addition, suggest that she makes up her own commercial for, say, the wooden spoon in your kitchen. Tell her that it should persuade you to buy this spoon. Allow her a few days to think it through, and help her if she asks you specific questions. When she’s ready, let her present the advertisement to you, as if it was on TV. Give her a round of applause when she has finished. Then ask her how she decided on its format and content. An exercise like this is good fun and helps her understand the mind of an advertiser. This article from Common Sense Media has more ideas.
NOT THE WHOLE TRUTH
There will have been times when your gullible child saw a toy on TV, persuaded you to buy it, and then discovered it wasn’t exactly what she had hoped for. Chat about these incidents with her. Use the discussion to confirm that what advertisers tell viewers aren’t always representative of the truth.
In other words, commercials can be misleading, so she shouldn’t accept everything she sees on TV at face value. Suggest that she questions the accuracy of ads before giving in to the temptation to buy whatever they are promoting.
These strategies will help your preschooler develop a critical perspective, and she may be less inclined to believe everything she sees in the ads.
But if she has thought about all these issues and yet still insists on getting the advertised product, then suggest that she use her pocket money to pay for it. You may be pleasantly surprised to discover how cautious she is about making a purchase when she realises her own money will be involved. That’s a very effective way of sharpening her immunity to the power of advertising.
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