What's the best way to talk to my kid about advertising?

Kids are bombarded with advertising messages everywhere they turn. In addition to the traditional television, print, and radio ads as well as product placements on TV shows and in movies, interactive ads blaze throughout online and gaming worlds. The best way to talk to kids about advertising is to point out all the different ways marketers try to get their brands noticed. Learning to view advertising critically reduces the risk that kids will be taken advantage of. Here are some ideas for starting those conversations:

Help kids identify different types of advertising messages. Watch television or play a video game with your kids and find the products and logos used as props or part of the story line. Have a conversation about how the messages try to get them to buy products.

Tell your kids never to click on an ad or fill out a form without your permission. Contests and promotions often are devious ways for companies to collect emails and phone numbers. Talk with your children about the true purpose behind promotions, downloads, and links from games, websites, and apps.

Find out who's behind it. Ask your kids if they know who created a particular ad and which words, images, or sounds were used to attract their attention. Ask if the product was obvious or if the ad used other methods (such as videos of cool kids dancing on a beach) to communicate a positive association with the brand.

Explain "tricks" that advertisers use in commercials. Advertisers often use Vaseline to make hamburgers look juicy, animated stars to imply that a particular kind of candy tastes "out of this world," or split screens to play to good and bad scenarios. Kids need to know that no matter how clever the gimmicks, they're all still ads.

Talk about the spokesperson. Some ads use celebrities to influence purchases, and some ads use "regular people" (who are usually actors). Ask your kids which qualities a specific person (such as Jennifer Aniston) or a particular type of person (such as a generic goofy nerd type) communicates about the product.

Ask how they felt before and after watching an ad. Point out how ads make people want things they don't need.

Talk about emotional manipulation. Ask your kids which emotions or desires an ad prompts them to feel. Preteens take comfort in looking cool -- and that means they often associate positive emotions with certain brands. Get them to identify those feelings so they can recognize when ads are affecting them.

Remind kids that their self-worth is not determined by what they own. Continue to send the message to kids that what's important is character, kindness, effort, and empathy -- not stuff.

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