Our children are “the most marketed to generation in history”, but they can develop a critical eye for commercial content. Here’s how:

  1. Talk about the adverts they have spotted online.

Find out which adverts your child has seen online. Which do they like? Which don’t they like, and why?

  1. Point out the various places that adverts appear on your phone or tablet.

Alongside emails, within apps, around news stories, in social media feeds, next to search results.

  1. Find out if they can tell which are ads.

How can they tell what is advertising and what isn’t? Is it ever difficult to tell if something is an advert? Have they ever mistaken an advert for part of the website or app?

  1. Be curious about the websites and apps they use.

Discuss how their favourite game/website/platforms make money. Where have they seen the adverts?

  1. Chat about their favourite social media personalities.

Who are their favourite vloggers – YouTubers or similar? Do they get paid to talk about the products they say they like? Why would an advertiser choose to promote their product with a vlogger?

  1. Talk about the different ways that adverts or sponsored content is labelled.

Look at the different ways that sponsored content is labelled on social media and websites. Encourage your child to report or tell you about any ads or promotions which they think are age-inappropriate or haven’t been clearly labelled.

  1. Analyse “free” branded games, videos or websites.

Find examples of branded games and videos. Discuss why these have been created. What does the company that made them get out of it? Are they selling something or collecting information? Ask if the games make children their age more likely to like or buy a product?

  1. Discuss how companies gather information about you.

Talk to your child about how games, quizzes and fun apps can be a way for companies to collect personal details and behavioural information. Why would companies want to this information? Do they think this kind of data collection is ok? Have they seen any examples where something is offered for “free” in return for information?

  1. Be a smarter consumer. 

Talk about how to be a smarter consumer. Show your child how to read reviews, spot fake reviews and comparison shop. Discuss the effect of consumerism on the planet and encourage them to come up with ideas to cut back on buying non-essential items.

  1. Consider the purpose.

Encourage your child to question the purpose behind the ads they see. Who created this? What do they want me to do and why?

  1. Challenge claims. Spot techniques.

Encourage them to challenge the claims that advertisers make. Do they exaggerate? Make things look better than they really are? Discuss the techniques used to make something seem so cool that kids are desperate to have it.

With guidance, children as young as 6 or 7 can recognise advertising, so start these conversations young, and keep talking as they mature. Encourage them to be curious and ‘look behind’ the digital media they see.

Read next…

Spotting advertising online: Why we need to educate young people

Teach Your Child to Spot Hidden Advertising Online

Is Your Class Ad-Savvy? 7 Ideas for Teachers 

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