Start by teaching kids under 7 the difference between a TV program and a commercial. Point out commercials and use a timer to show them when the commercial begins and ends. Ask questions to help them recognize the purpose of the commercial is to sell them a product. What is the commercial selling? How does the commercial make them feel? Would they like to buy the product?
Once kids understand that advertising is about persuading them to buy a product, they can begin to identify other types of advertising messages such as product placement, Web site games and guerilla marketing. Watch TV or play a video game with your child and find the products and logos used as a prop or part of the storyline. Have a conversation about how the messages try to get you to buy the product.
Key questions to ask about any advertising message
Who created this message?
- Who wrote the words or took the picture?
- Why are they sending this message?
- Who do they want to see this message?
- Who makes money from the ad?
What words, images and sounds are used to attract my attention?
- What colors stand out? Is music used? Words? Narration? Sound effects?
- Is a celebrity featured in the ad?
- What are the people doing? Is it something I like to do?
- Does the ad make me think the people in the ad are cool? Happy? Healthy?
What is really being sold in this message?
- What does the ad say?
- What do you know about the product from looking at the ad?
- Is something left out that you think should be included?
What does the message mean to me?
- How does the ad make me feel about the product?
- Would my parents or friends feel the same way?
- Do I want to buy the product? Why or why not?
The same questions can be asked about any media message with just a few minor changes — substitute the word ad or product with the name of another media form.
Visit www.commonsensemedia.org for more information.