Does it sometimes feel like your child wants every toy, candy, and game that they hear about? It’s no wonder, with everything they hear and see in their environment, from television, social media, friends, and even in school.
Some studies have found that by the time a child is three, they know and recognize about 100 brand logos.
Some experts believe that kid’s involvement in “consumer culture,” can lead to depression, low self-esteem, and anxiety. The American Academy of Pediatrics reported that there is also a connection between children’s aggressive behavior and violence that can be found in advertising.
What’s A Parent To Do?
While marketers try to convince us it’s all up to us to regulate what our child sees, we know advertisers bear some responsibility for the images they create and flood our children with. Remember that young children are very literal, and they haven’t yet learned to fully separate fantasy from reality. Encouraging critical thinking and participating in activities is the best way for children to learn.
In Your Home
- Is your television in the center of the living room? Move the TV to a lesser used room or a corner.
- Put a cloth over the screen. It’s out of sight some, and when you want to watch, you’ll think about it a little more.
- Put computers and/or screens in high traffic areas to keep a better view of what your child is looking at.
- Emphasize “unplugged time.” Create limits for your child’s screen time that reflect their personality and age, and your family’s values. Limits can be about the length of time or “situational” —dinner is for conversations, not phones; homework before the internet.
- Consider web browsers created specifically for kids that have a way for parents to block ads.
- Start or end each day without screens. Create other rituals like bedtime stories or morning singing.
- Moderate your own screen time. Children learn by example.
Do it together
- Watch TV, videos or play computer games with your child. When ads appear, shut off the sound or ask age appropriate questions.
- Do you think that doll really comes alive?
- How does this ad make you feel?
- When your child wants something from an ad, find out why:
- Do they want to build the tower like the one in the ad?
- Do their friends have the item?
- Are they bored with what they have — perhaps they are in a new developmental stage and need different stimulation?
Letting others know and knowing others
You can’t control what happens when your child has a play date or is with a relative, for example.
You can talk to other caring adults and tell them what your rules are–homework first, no violent videos, etc. You can’t expect them to follow all of your rules, but letting them know can help them to understand what to expect from your child.
Return the favor and carefully listen when adults explain what the rules for their children are.
Mutual respect all around builds relationships and lets you decide what are good limits for your child.
When your child is older and visiting others, remind them of your rules, but let them know different families have different rules. Ask them to think about what they do at other people’s homes. Talk with them about their experiences in other places – how did it feel to be able to watch television for hours or not watch it at all?
When deciding on a pre-school or school, ask about what type of advertising they allow.
- Are there guidelines?
- Are there ad banners in the cafeteria or the gym?
- Are fundraisers selling a brand of candy or books from a particular publisher?
- Do companies sponsor school events or sports? How does the school decide which ones?
Get involved. If you have concerns, talk with teachers and other parents and see if changes can be made that are more reflective of community values.
Screen less for Ad-less
There’s plenty to do when you are not watching screens and avoiding advertising.
- Have a weekly game, puzzle, or reading night–read stories out loud.
- Cook or bake together. For younger children, have them make shapes with pre-made dough or decorate cookies.
- Go outside! Try a new park – check out the City of Eugene sight for park events – https://www.eugene-or.gov/185/Parks-and-Open-Space. Take a walk in the woods or by the river. Look for birds. Pick berries.
- “Sensory play” is a great alternative because kids get involved with touch, sight, hearing and other senses. Try water play or pots and pans as instruments. Salad spinners with different items inside are often a winner.
A Little Less Gimmes!
You can’t keep all the ads out of your child’s life, and you probably can’t stop them from “pestering” at least some of the time.
You can, however, create an environment at home and school with fewer ads and more critical thinking about what ads are trying to do. In the process, you can also create great family memories as you walk through the woods, play music or bake bread together.
This article is brought to you by Parenting Now! Parenting Educators and authors, Tova Stabin, Claire Davis and Lynne Swartz and consultant Jay Thompson (andupdatemywebsite.com). Parenting Now! is passionate about happy, healthy families. For more information about Parenting Now! contact us here.
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