Given the recent posting about the Target ad, the recent discussion on the Park Slope Parents website about kids and commercials, and our upcoming LAMP workshop, “Make a Commercial/Break a Commercial,” for 7-10 year olds, I thought it would be a good idea to say a little something about advertising.
An ongoing concern for many adults, mostly parents, advertising is considered by many to be one of the evils of our commercial media system because of its potential effects on children.
There are lots of things to talk about when talking about ads on TV:
- how they represent females and people of different ethnicities;
- how they encourage junk food habits;
- the subtleties of product placement in television programming that “naturalize” brand names within narratives, etc.
All of these are worth discussing at length.
Some parents try to avoid these issues by banning television altogether, or at least commercial television. While each family has its rules and its reasons, something I encourage is watching commercials with children (of all ages, though there is some evidence that children 5 and under can’t readily distinguish commercials from other types of programming on TV). When you watch commercials with children you have a great opportunity to critique the methods of persuasion being used, especially in commercials aimed at them.
Images, sounds and words are used in incredible combinations to attract and excite children about toys, food and lots of other goods and services. By watching together and talking about why some commercials are appealing, adults are given a chance to sharpen their own critical thinking skills, and children are given a terrific opportunity to learn from the adults around them.
And let’s face it, kids are surrounded by advertising everywhere, so even if they aren’t watching commercials, they’re exposed to advertising in all kinds of other places, indoors and out. It’s best to give them sharp skills early. With an adult’s help, TV can be a good teaching aid for kids.
Recently, Bob McChesney, a leading media scholar, interviewed Sut Jhally, founder of the Media Education Foundation, about children and commercialization. The discussion is about the larger issue of what it means to grow up in a commercialized world.
You can hear the radio interview at: http://www.will.uiuc.edu/media/mediamatters080106.mp3
And register your child for our Make a Commercial/Break a Commercial workshop at the Park Slope YMCA for 7-10 year olds, starting Monday, March 24th.
Education Director, The LAMP