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Please read these fine articles
written to educate parents on the importance of play and toy selection!
National Toy Council
Advertising and your
A PARENT'S GUIDE
THIS PUBLICATION IS SPONSORED BY HASBRO
National Toy Council has produced this publication for parents of children
between two and twelve years old. It is intended to help parents and all
those involved in caring for children understand what may be appropriate or
inappropriate advertising for their children. It provides parents with
guidelines to help children understand and judge advertisements.
It is estimated that children watch an average of two and
a half hours of television every day, the equivalent on an annual basis of a
38-day marathon of TV viewing. It is worth remembering that the advertising
impact is restricted to those hours spent viewing commercial television
channels. A lot of television viewing takes place on weekday afternoons and
Saturday mornings, when parents are at work or even asleep. Therefore it may
go largely unmonitored.
Children have a lot of potential power as consumers. In
addition to their own spending money on items such as clothes, music and
video games, they also have the ability to exert considerable influence over
the parental decision making that goes into buying household items. They are
especially influential on environmental issues, about which they show great
HELPING YOUR CHILD TO THINK ABOUT
Television can be an important learning tool for your
children, but it must be used with the greatest care. As part of the
television "picture", advertising can provide your children with a
great deal of information about the world around them and may also be a
child's introduction to what it means to be a consumer.
Advertisements can help a child appreciate the different
choices, and how to select wisely. But it must always be remembered that
children need close parental guidance when it comes to advertising. Advertising
and Your Child is intended to help parents help themselves and their
children to judge information and make informed choices. Nothing can take
the place of the important role played by parents.
It is useful with very young children to start by talking
about the general meaning of advertising. For the purposes of such a
discussion, parents may want to cut out and then refer to a magazine or
newspaper advertisement. Show your child such an advertisement and ask:
What do you notice first when you look at this
What do you like or dislike about this advertisement?
What product is being advertised?
How does the advertisement make you feel about the
What questions should you ask before buying this
Encourage your child to seek more information than the
advertisement contains. How is the product used? Does it work well? Do you
really need this particular product? What other similar products are
available and at what cost?
This line of questioning is guaranteed to spark a lively
discussion. More importantly, it will serve as a good starting point for
turning your child into a wise consumer. Children should know that the
purpose of advertising is to get people interested in buying products, not
to entertain the viewer or reader.
Extend these discussions to television advertising. Talk
about the ways in which the product is made attractive on the television
screen. Assist your child in identifying the claims made in the
advertisement and then sort the statements into two categories: fact
and opinion. Ask your child to consider which of the claims can be
proved and which cannot.
When your children watch television be sure that they
know when advertisements start and stop. Young children may consider the
advertisements to be part of the programme so it is a good idea to identify
the advertisements for them. At the beginning of the advertisement say:
"Oh, it's an advertisement. After the advertising break we'll be able
to go back to the story."
Help your child to recognise when the advertisement
starts by pointing out the "End of Part One" headings, programme
EXPLAINING HOW ADVERTISING WORKS
When explaining how advertisements work, try to compare
them to ideas and situations that your child will understand. For example,
you may wish to say that:
Advertising makes a product into a
"star" An advertisement dresses up the product, puts make-up on it, shines
bright lights on it, and makes it look larger than life. The advertiser
hopes that it will make consumers want to have the "star" in
Advertising makes a product "stand out in a
crowd" It's difficult to be seen in a crowd, things get lost and tend to
blend together. If one person in the crowd is wearing a brightly
coloured outfit or a large hat, however, that person will stand out. An
advertiser wants the product to stand out in your mind and, as a result,
highlights it in a way that attracts attention. One way to demonstrate
this is to take your child to the supermarket. Ask your child to point
to the boxes, cans or bags that feature artwork that is the most
noticeable on the shelf. They will then come to understand that
packaging is another form of advertising.
THE REST OF THE STORY...
Children should learn that advertising gives them some,
but not all of the information needed to make informed choices. Help
your child to understand that product information does not come from
advertising exclusively and that an advertisement is only an introduction,
not the whole story.
How can you help your child learn to investigate products
before making a decision about purchase? The best way for parents to make
this point is to lead through personal example. Involve your child in the
decisions about family purchases, from clothing to appliances, food to
presents. Let your child see how you weigh the relative merits of particular
brands. Help your child in making similar decisions even when it comes to
small toy and entertainment purchases.
FACT AND FANTASY
Whenever and wherever possible, watch television with
your children and urge them to discuss and think critically about what they
are seeing. When viewing advertisements, talk about the various elements
which may make them deceptive or misleading. These discussions need not
create cynics nor inevitably lead to the conclusion that all advertising is
suspect. Instead, checks on fantasy and reality in advertisements can foster
responsible decision-making behaviour in growing children.
Suppose you and your young children see a TV
advertisement for a toy space station. The advertisement features special
sound effects made by the toy and the setting for the space station is
suitably fantastic with a backcloth of stars and planets. After the
advertisement do a "reality check" with your children to help them
distinguish between reality and fantasy:
How big is the space station?
Who or what is making the noise you can hear?
Where do the stars and planets come from?
Are they part of the toy?
Asking your children to think about the answers to these
questions will encourage them to analyse advertising and products on their
own. More generally, this process should also help to build your child's
self-confidence and sense of competence when it comes to making decisions.
Encourage your child to bring you any questions about advertisements that
are watched when you are not present.
MAKE IT REAL FOR YOUR CHILD
As parents you can also help your children judge the
reality behind the images in advertising by encouraging them to draw upon
their personal experiences. For example, take an advertisement showing
children performing tricks on a particular brand of skateboard. Ask your
"If you bought that skateboard, do you think you
would be able to do the tricks the children in the advertisement are
"How long do you think they had to practise before
they could do them?"
"What do you think would happen if you tried to do
those stunts without practising first?"
After seeing an advertisement like this, talk about a
skill or activity that your child has attempted to master. Whether it is
staying within the lines of a colouring book or riding a bike without
stabilisers, reminding your child just how much work and practice was needed
in order to improve at the activity will help identify realistic (and
unrealistic) claims in advertising. He or she will be less likely to be
misled into thinking that particular equipment, food or clothing can provide
short-cuts to improving his or her own skills.
The following are additional ideas to encourage your
child to think carefully about advertising:
Identify a product you have seen advertised on TV and
then visit a shop that sells the product. Compare the television version
with the actual product. Ask your child: How are they different? Which is
A STAR IS BORN
Choose a product in your home and make it a "TV
Star". Put the product in a box and dress it up as if it were going to
appear on a real television. Use crayons or paints to decorate the box,
shine a flashlight on the product, etc. This exercise helps your child
understand the process of advertising and how products can be enhanced by
various advertising techniques.
MAKE A LIST
List the types of advertisements that appear during
children's programmes. Help your child keep a record of how many of each
type (food, toys and clothing) are shown in a given period of time.
WATCH YOUR LANGUAGE
Look for words that come up again and again in
advertising. See if your child can find particular words that are used for
particular types of products, like "delicious" for cereal, or
"beautiful" for dolls.
WHO'S THAT GIRL?
Identify the spokesperson for the product and encourage
your child to speculate about why an advertiser may have chosen that
particular person. How is the product made more attractive or interesting by
virtue of its association with the spokesperson?
WHAT'S THE STORY?
Break the advertisement down into the parts of its story.
Ask your child to decide which elements of the story provide information
about the product and which parts are not relevant to a purchasing decision.
Encourage your child to list the things he or she still needs to know after
seeing the commercial.
JUNIOR "AD" AGENCY
When your child has grown comfortable with thinking about
how advertisements work, ask him or her to draw and colour a series of
advertisements, such as a breakfast cereal, transformer, bicycle, doll and
board game. Ask your child why he or she decided to present products in
certain ways? What was highlighted? Are facts or opinions used in the
Teachers report that one of the most effective ways to
teach children is to involve them directly in the subject at hand. By
encouraging your children to put themselves in the shoes of the makers of
the products and their advertisers, you open up a new and exciting way for
your children to think and make informed decisions.
The exercises suggested here should help your children
pay attention to advertising on television or in newspapers and magazines
and enable them to have a better understanding of how and why advertising
IF YOU HAVE A COMPLAINT
Advertising in the UK is largely self-regulatory. It is
the responsibility of the independent television stations to ensure that
advertisements comply with the ITC Code of Advertising Practice which gives
detailed guidance on the portrayal of children and toys in television
If you have any complaints about television
advertisements you should address them to:-
The Independent Television Commission (ITC)
70 Brompton Road
London SW3 1EY
Tel: 071 584 7011
The National Toy Council is concerned with child
welfare and promoting a responsible attitude towards toys and play. Its
members include representatives of the Child Accident Prevention Trust,
British Toy and Hobby Association, Playmatters/National Toy Libraries
Association, Institute of Trading Standards Administration, BBC Children's
Television, national press, renowned academics and a toy safety expert.
The NTC is particularly grateful to the Children's
Advertising Review Unit (CARU) of the Council of Better Business Bureaus in
the United States for its assistance in the compilation of this publication
and for permission to reproduce its material.
For further Information
National Toy Council, 80 Camberwell Road London SE5 0EG
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