I still remember growing up and seeing TV ads with Barbie looking gorgeous and twirling around by herself and thinking that if I had that particular Barbie, she would dance around like that and be like a best friend to me instead of a plastic doll, and my life would be perfect. Well, Santa did occasionally bless me with that wonderously miraculous gift of the moment, but the wonderous gift never did what it seemed to in the ads, and it never changed my life.
How do we explain to kids that what is in the ads they see, is not what would come in the package under the tree? The easiest way is to have no TV, so they see no ads.
Barring that more radical approach, the book Unplug the Christmas Machinehas some good suggestions for how to teach your kids about TV commercials:
According to this book, studies have shown that children under the age of 5 cannot distinguish TV commercials from actual programs. (Thanks for the link Dana!)
The authors suggest that parents watch at least one hour of TV with children, in order to discuss commercials.
+ Have young children call out “commercial” whenever an ad appears.
+ Talk to children (especially older children) about what is being advertised and how the product is made to seem appealing.
+ Have older kids count the number of commercials in one hour, or even have them time the length of each commercial.
Here are some ideas that grabbed me from the website PBS Parents: Children and Media:
+ For Grade Schoolers:
“When watching TV with your child, question the commercials.Voice your skepticism by posing questions such as these: Who do you think created this ad? What do you think the message is? What might the advertiser not be telling us? Do you think you can believe what you see? Start with obvious targets—ads promoting high-fat foods, for example—then move on to more subtle ads, such as those promoting a cool or attractive lifestyle. Explain how advertisements are often meant to make people feel that something is missing from their lives. “
+ For Pre-Teens:
Try muting an ad and have your child tell you what he or she thinks the ad is saying. Or…have your child close their eyes and tell you what he or she thinks it is showing.
There are so many more wonderful ideas grouped by age at PBS Parents: Children and Media, that I shall just have to link to them by age here:
Quote of the Day:
“Adolescents, youths, and even children, are easy victims of the corruption of love. Deceived by unscrupulous adults, who, lying to themselves and to them, draw them into the dead-end streets of consumerism.”
– Pope Benedict XVI, quoted today while talking about Christmas (heard on tonight’s NPR All Things Considered)
Sorry this is so “heavy.” I am not Catholic, nor do I usually get into religion on my blog, but I did think this was a quote worth thinking about, no matter what one’s beliefs.
Read all the Christmas/Holidays Unplugged posts here.