Handling Advertising's Impact on Kids
Mary Manz Simon has built a career out of carpools and soccer games. She's a parenting specialist, consultant and speaker whose books have sold more than a million copies. She offers the following advice to parents concerned about the impact of advertising on their kids:
- Build on the basics. Smart purchasing is only one element in a broader fiscal framework: spend, save and give.
- Battle savvy marketers. Your child may pressure you into buying something when you enter an elaborately themed environment. Set an approximate budget before shopping with a child. Prior to entering a store, say, I have $10 to spend. We need to buy suntan lotion and insect repellent.
- Instill smart choices in your family lifestyle. If the grocery store has a sale on canned vegetables, say, Please put five cans of corn in the cart. We buy canned goods when they're on sale. Your child will observe that wise buying begins with logical thinking, not an advertisement.
- Know how your child thinks. He cannot understand the concept of a virtual wallet, e-money or credit. He has minimal understanding of value. However, he can learn to identify coins and paper denominations. Encourage a 4-year-old to sort coins. An older child can learn the basics of comparison-shopping by sitting next to you while you review store circulars.
- Be alert to advergaming. Marketers use video games to promote products. They know young children cannot mentally determine where an ad ends and a game begins thats the reason companies sponsor entertaining Web sites. Sometimes the use of products is subtle. Other times mascots and brands are upfront. Careful monitoring of your childs screen time will reduce his exposure to advergaming.
- Watch for developmental changes. As your child nears 7, he may experiment with adult-type logic. For example, he may realize that a kids meal is priced higher because of a toy. He might still want the toy but show initial signs that he understands marketing hooks.