Selling to kids and teens is huge business. Tweens and teens direct nearly $44 billion in spending each year, which explains why the average child sees well over 100,000 advertisements and promotions each year – and few of these messages are for products that actually benefit our kids.
The biggest culprit is the processed food industry, telling our children how fast food meals make them “happy”, how soft drinks can help them “open happiness” and how snack chips are “for the bold”.
A new study shows that, while education about making healthy food choices for long term health does not cause a change in eating habits, when tweens and teens are shown how deceptive marketing practices work, they reject the junk foods and begin to make healthier choices. In short, teens and tweens value honesty and truth right now above the risk of high blood pressure and diabetes in later years.
Teaching your children media literacy – how to identify and understand the messages in the media – helps them identify false, misleading and manipulative messages that lead them to desire and select poor choices.
The goals of media literacy are to teach children how to:
• think critically
• become a smart consumer
• recognize perspective and point of view
• create their own messages responsibly
• identify messages in all forms
• define the author’s goal
While this may sound overwhelming at first, a few simple questions can accomplish all these goals. Talk to your child about these points:
• Who created this message? Was it a company? Was it a public service organization? Was it an individual person? Why do you think that?
• Why did they create this message? Is it to prompt you to buy something? Inform you? Change your mind or behavior? Why do you think that?
• What methods are they using to convince you of the truth of the message? Are statistics or facts from a reliable source? Does it include quotes from experts on this subject? Are strong colors being used? Authoritative voices? Why do you think that?
• What kind of information is being left out? What questions would you need answered to understand the whole story? Why do you think that?
• How does this message make you feel? Do you think that’s how they want you to feel? Do you think the actual product would make you feel that way? Why do you think that?
Clearly explain to your children that famous athletes and celebrities are not endorsing products because they believe in them, they are doing so because they are being paid enormous sums of money – and many of them do not use the products or eat the foods.
Asking these questions about television ads, YouTube videos, memes and online sponsored messages, and considering the answers carefully, will not only open your chid’s eyes, it will probably help you see the impact media has on your buying and leisure habits as well.
Do you have questions about nutrition and diet – to separate the truth from the spin? Alzein Pediatrics is here to help! Just call 708-424-7600 or click here to schedule an appointment.