In this modern world, teaching kids about advertising is just as important as teaching them about money. It’s a valuable life lesson they need to learn, and the sooner, the better.
When my daughter saw a “Blendy Pens” commercial on TV, she was fascinated. She’s been mentioning the pens almost every single day since.
I was surprised at the power that those commercials had over her. As Lisa Tiffin writes on How To Get Rich Slowly, “while I had been dismissing commercial-watching as a mildly amusing pastime, marketers were subtly invading my home and impressing their values on my captivated and trusting children.”
A quick online research seemed to suggest that Blendy Pens may perform well in the commercial but not so well in real life. But since it was so important to her, I decided to buy the smallest set available and take this opportunity to teach my daughters about advertising.
As expected, the pens were difficult to operate, the colors didn’t blend very well and my daughter quickly lost interest in the new toy.
I thought this was a great opportunity to teach my kids about advertising. So we talked. We talked about how ads present products and services in a way that makes us want to buy them, even if we don’t really need them. We talked about the gap between a product’s performance in a commercial and the actual value that it brings you once you own it. We talked about how companies need money – our money – in order to grow. We also talked about consumerism – equating personal happiness with purchasing material possessions.
I like the way Amy from Crunchy Domestic Goddess put it in her post on freeganism – an anti-consumerism lifestyle: “what and how much do we really need to live? What void are we trying to fill as we consume and consume? Will we ever be happy?”
The Blendy Pens lesson turned out to be a valuable one. My daughters are learning to question what they see on TV. They know to be skeptical of ads and to ask themselves “is this really as good as it seems?”
The added bonus: by teaching my kids about advertising, I am re-enforcing these values in me.
Photo by Pink Ponk