How do I teach my kids to understand when something is an ad?

It can be hard to identify ads online, especially because many ads are disguised as games or contests. Even adults get confused! Here are a handful of ad identifiers to explain to your kids:

  • Advertising must be clearly labeled on the internet. It could say, "ad," "advertisement," or "this is advertising."
  • Ads often have prices listed. Or, it might say, "free."
  • It may have a come-on, such as "download now," "watch demo," "order now," or "buy."
  • Ads often contain eye-catching visuals, including bold colors and flashing graphics
  • Brand names are typically highlighted in ads -- kids will recognize brands they know.

Some websites notify users when they're leaving the site and going to an advertisement. But other ads are more integrated into websites or apps, especially ones that have a product to sell. You might want to visit a website, such as Crayola, and talk about the different ways it engages kids. How do the images, videos, and games make certain products seem appealing and like something they might want to buy? Teaching kids to look critically at things online -- from ads to status updates -- will empower them to be smart digital citizens.

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Adult written by riored

Keep in mind a child's age and developmental level. Studies say most kids under 7 don't have the capability of "abstract thinking" down, so it may be difficult for someone that age to make the distinction between ad and activity/program.
Kid, 9 years old

If you have a channel guide, you can see channel numbers/names and what's on now. This can also be a helpful tool for finding out which channels show real programs and which show long advertisements. Infomercial channels usually have names like "The Buy Channel" or "Sale Network". Sometimes non-infomercial channels (like Fox) show paid programming at late night. A way to find out what TV programs are real and which are big ads is looking at their names and descriptions. Examples of infomercial name: "Spray Away Age Spots" Examples of infomercial description: "Spraytastic will destroy your age spots now!" Example of non-infomercial names: "The Dude McGuy Show" Example of non-infomercial description: "Dude McGuy finds a funny snail"