As parents, we're our children's first line of defense against an array of negative influences. Constant barrages of unsavory images promoting foods of little or no nutritious value are common place. The sky rains with products of expediency but offers little hope for finding products that promote a better state of mind or body. As guardians we do our best to erect shields to block and deflect the poisonous arrows of harmful advertising. The reason we often fail is simply because we underestimate the power advertising wields. Or because we don't really understand how advertising works. Plainly speaking, as adults we find ourselves at times swirling in the bravado of false promises these products spew.
The key to combating this successfully, I believe, is to first know that the word, "advertisement or advertise" is derived from the French word "avertissement" which means warning or caution. I recommend we make this the first response when watching commercials of any kind. If we consistently acted on the side of caution, I'm sure certain foods could be avoided all together.
Second, children are constantly exposed to advertising messages designed to make them believe they can't live without a certain product. Hence the influential power of the medium. But how does it work? Understand that we purchase based on emotions. How we feel about a product determines if we will buy it or not. It all begins with what advertisers have coined as the think-feel-do model of message effects, which presumes that we approach a purchase situation using a sequence of responses. In other words, we think about something, then we form an opinion or attitude about it (feel) and finally we take action and try it or buy it (do). Advertising helps shape our attitude favorably about a product to entice us to buy. A simple process it seems, but so difficult to master as a consumer.
I believe our biggest problem as consumers is that we bypass the thinking part and dive head first into the feel part of decision making. That is always a mistake. Worse, we pass this behavior to our children. In no way am I concluding that all advertising is bad. But once we take to heart that the manipulations of target marketing can increase the likelihood of obesity, poor nutrition, eating disorders, cigarette and alcohol use in children and adolescents, then perhaps we will improve our knowledge and acquire tools to use to offset the effects. Unfortunately, there is no way to completely avoid advertising targeted to children, but there are some things you can do to reduce the effects:
1. Limit television and Internet use to no more than two hours a day each. [In my opinion, it should be less...]
2. Teach your children how to interpret advertising messages. Explain to older children the purpose of advertising and the mind tricks they use in their messages.
3. Instill values in your children consistently. Help build their sense of self and self esteem so that they understand that material things will not make them better people. Involve your children in extracurricular activities to keep them active and stimulated. Work with your children to make sure they achieve a healthy body image despite what the media culture considers attractive.
4. Lastly, but I will dare say the most important -- practice what you preach. Mr. Douglas Castle, CIOF Director of Strategic Planning, once shared that a parent's credibility is worthless if not followed by consistent action.
The effective way to handle the influence of advertisements is to live the healthy example you wish your children to practice. Build a pattern of behavior that is consistent with what you want for your child. In fact we should be flesh and blood advertisements to our children. Are they not exposed to us more than television? If not, then that is where the true problem lies.
Reference:1. Steps to reduce advertising effects taken from (www.ehow.com) .
Visit (http://www.ciofoundation.org/) for more information concerning childhood obesity.