The Effect Advertising Has on Our Kids

“Mommy, you need that” and “Mommy, I want that!” are familiar words I hear when watching television with my children. On Saturday morning while watching The Dog Whisperer to learn how to deal with our overzealous pup, up comes a commercial for the PedEgg… and it starts again. They get so excited about the commercials!

I remember as a child watching Saturday morning cartoons and seeing a commercial for the Easy Bake Oven. Oh, how I wanted that toy! But, alas, I never got it. I remember commercials for Barbie, Legos, and Stretch Armstrong (yes, I’m that old). But, here’s the thing, those commercials were specifically targeted to me as a kid. Now it seems that my children react to ALL commercials saying “Mom, you need that”, “You should get that for Daddy”, and so on. It’s not just about what they want anymore, it is what they think that everybody else needs too.

Now that’s different. It could be that I’m doing a good job as a parent and raising kids that care about others; it could be that advertisers are doing a better job at marketing; or it could be a combination of the two. Either way, if they see it, they want it and it’s my job to teach them that they don’t need everything they see. I have two girls, so for me that is extremely important, especially since marketing is no longer limited to just the commercials. It is everywhere. I had forgotten how influential advertising could be on our children.

In today’s social world, most teens and adults have become immune to marketing.  We don’t seek out commercials unless it is the Super Bowl, but for young, impressionable minds it is a different story. I limit their television, but there are so many ways of taking in media including Facebook, Netflix, Youtube, video games, apps and cable that it can be difficult. Often children can’t discern between an advertisement or “reality TV” and real life. When they see it, they take it as truth. Even their day at school prompts requests for things they think they need.

Kids learn from what they see and if they see perfect airbrushed models or certain lifestyles they want to emulate them. My parents never had to teach me about commercials. I just didn’t get what was advertised and that was the end of it. No questions asked. But today it is different. Kids are bombarded on every level, and it is our job to teach them the difference between what is real and what is fake. That includes teaching them that what you see is not always what you get. The best way is to lead by example, but sometimes I have to remind them that objects don’t make people happy and sometimes people spend money on things they really can’t afford just to try to impress others (which usually doesn’t work).

Children grow up quicker than ever and all this media is really affecting their development. I have to constantly tell my seven year old that she doesn’t need special clothes, makeup or perfume for people to like her. Almost daily I reminder her that she is beautiful just the way she is. Trying to build her self-esteem and teach her that she is enough can be challenging, and all I can do is be consistent. Hopefully, with enough time and love she will understand that clothes and things don’t make people special. How they treat others and how they act does.

If you have ideas or stories, I’d love to hear them. How do you teach your kids the difference between real-life and make believe?

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