Consumer Basics

Talking to Kids about Deceptive Advertising

Teach your children well, about ads.

Every year, millions of ads are targeted at kids.  The problem?  Oh, where to begin…

Here’s a very brief look at some problems with respect to children and advertising.

First, young kids don’t have the mental maturity to understand what an ad is.  In other words, they often believe that ads are 100% accurate and true, as in, “if I have Air Jordans, I’ll be able to play basketball like Michael Jordan.”

Another problem is that some advertisers hook kids on their products or services by luring them in with toys or other fun activities.  For example, lots of fast food restaurants mention superhero action figures in their ads to rope kids into eating their food, while other advertisers link their products to fun kids shows or movies, or disguise their ads by turning them into games.

Yet another problem is that kids are exposed to many, many, many “adult” ads.  Alcohol ads run during sporting events, adult-rated video games are advertised before kids’ movies, and cigarette ads, despite efforts to contain them, are still being viewed by millions of kids and teenagers.

So what’s the solution?

For starters, parents can talk to their kids about advertising, and file complaints when they spot deceptive ads directed at kids.  Parents can also do some research on the relevant laws that apply to advertising to kids, such as the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, so they understand their rights and their kids’ rights.  They can also check out some helpful links that are provided below.  Finally, parents should watch out for questionable ads directed at them trying to convince them to buy goods or services for their kids.  There’s no better way to teach your kids about deceptive advertising than to lead by example.

Helpful resources:

Children’s Online Privacy
Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood
Chatting with Kids about being Online

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