Advertising and your child

Parentree-editors 2008-08-17 03:06:36

It is estimated that the average child in India watches 3 to 4 hours of television every day. Most of this viewing is done without supervision by an adult.  During this time, children watch dozens of advertisements.

While we can complain about advertisements and their inappropriateness for children, it is a reality today. Manufacturers know very well that while children do not make a purchasing decision, they have enormous influence on their parents' decisions. Marketers also know that children are impressionable.  In addition, children often win the argument to buy something for themselves by pestering us. We all know this first hand!!

In 2007, a study reported that children who were 3 to 5 years, when presented with the same food in McDonald's packaging and in unmarked packaging, thought the former was tastier. One of foods presented to them in the study was carrots which McDonald's does not even sell. Even the carrots in McDonald's packaging were thought to be tastier than regular carrots1!!!

So what can parents do? We cannot deny reality. Advertising bombards at us and our children everywhere. Parents must try to educate children about the advantages and disadvantages of advertising. Ordering children not to watch advertisements seldom works.

A process by which the child himself learns about advertising will be better for both parent and child. Here are some techniques that can be used.

How to educate your children about what is a program and what is an advertisement

  • When children start watching television, sit with them and every time an advertisement appears, change the television to a channel with no signal. Cricket matches are very good for this type of coaching. An advertisement appears at the end of every over and very quickly children learn to differentiate between programming and advertisements. This learning carries over into other non-sports channels also.
  • Teach your children how to operate the button on the television remote control that switches the television back to the previous channel.
  • If you have more than one child, have your children take turns.  Sit nearby while you allow them to use the remote. Whenever an advertisement appears, the children will press the button to go to the previous channel. By giving them the power to control it themselves, you have made it more participatory for them.
  • Of course, children are not perfect. Once in a while, they will let an advertisement run for some time before changing channels. Try to ensure that an adult is always with them when watching TV.

Use alternative media like DVDs

There are some excellent programs available on DVD, and they are free of advertising. Check out our reviews section for various movies and shows that the Parentree community likes. Don't forget to tell the community what you like also.

Explain advertising to your child

  • Have a discussion with them on the advantages and disadvantages of advertising.
  • Teach them about how advertisers help us by providing information on new products.
  • But also teach them that advertisers only show them what is good about their product while hiding its shortcomings.
  • Take a real advertisement example. With our children, we discussed the advertisement for a mango drink. We explained to them what the difference between that mango drink and real mango juice was.

Explain the non-realistic portrayals in advertisements

Advertisers often use exaggerated situations to show off their products. These can be turned to your benefit. Have a discussion with your child on what was real and what was exaggerated. Let them think about it. Don't tell them.

You will be surprised how smart children are when asked this. Most of them will immediately realize that the advertisement was not realistic. In this case also, take a real example when discussing this. You can even have them compare a product as shown in an advertisement with what it looks in real life.

With good parental guidance and open discussion, children can be educated about what is good and bad about advertisements and it will help them make better decisions as they grow up.


1. Thomas N. Robinson; Dina L. G. Borzekowski; Donna M. Matheson; Helena C. Kraemer "Effects of Fast Food Branding on Young Children's Taste Preferences" Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2007;161(8):792-797


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