by Edna Rienzi
Recently, the Center for a New American Dream launched its latest resource, Kids Unbranded: Tips for Parenting in a Commercial Culture. This guide is designed to help parents, educators, and advocates push back against the staggering onslaught of marketing that our children face today.
Advertisers pour billions of dollars into a variety of mediums targeting kids, and the results are striking. Aggressive marketing to kids not only contributes to excessive materialism, but also to a host of psychological and behavior problems including depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, childhood obesity, eating disorders, increased violence, and family stress.
Here are five #KidsUnbranded tips you can try today to help protect your kids:
1. When your kids want to play an online game on the computer or on your smartphone, have them show you how their game is played, what kind of information they are required to provide, and what sorts of awards they’re earning. Invest the time to really understand.
2. Install an effective ad blocker on your web browser to help prevent your children’s online activity from being tracked by marketers. And explain to your kids that they give advertisers a lot of information simply by taking a quiz or entering a contest.
3. More important than trying to shelter your kids from all advertising all of the time (which is pretty impossible in this day and age!) is engaging in what researchers call “active mediation.” That’s a fancy way of saying you need to talk about ads with your kids. So, while you should generally have your kids avoid ads, look for teachable moments. Watch an ad with your kids today, and explain the intent behind what they’re seeing. Teach them to ask critical questions. Explains the tricks advertisers use to sell a product.
4. Go through your kids’ toys and bring out the open-ended toys that require creativity to be fully imagined – such as blocks, art supplies, and play kitchens – and make them more accessible. Put the toys that have a media hook or that offer only one way to play with them in harder to reach areas. Pay attention to the intense gender marketing that is going on and look for more neutral options to avoid reinforcing stereotypes.
5. When you’re helping your child with their homework, take note of whether their textbooks contain any sponsored materials. You may be surprised by the amount of marketing that makes its way into school curricula. If so, talk to your kids about the advertising. Ask them whether they watch Channel One in their classroom. Then, talk with other parents and write letters to the principal, school board members, and superintendent expressing your concern.
For dozens more tips, recommendations, success stories, and resources, be sure to download your free copy of Kids Unbranded: Tips for Parenting in a Commercial Culture.