Q: Recently, my children started singing the jingle from a commercial for an erectile dysfunction drug. I was shocked. Then I remembered that we had seen the ad during a sports game on TV, and that I had thought it had gone over their heads. What should I do?
Shocked About the Singing in New York, NY
A: Dear Shocked About the Singing,
Yes, I suspect that that particular advertising jingle has a different effect than “My baloney has a first name.” Especially if you are not the only one listening! And even if it’s only you who hears your kids singing about such topics, the question is really what effect these ads have on them.
As your experience and our research both demonstrate, kids absorb a lot more from advertising than we think they do. And unfortunately, there are many commercials that are inappropriate for children aired during televised sports and other live broadcast events, which makes them more difficult to avoid. So, we as parents need to be prepared.
I would recommend a few different approaches, depending on the ages of your children. First, if you are able to watch an event at a later time, use a VCR, TiVo or DVR and skip over the ads. If your kids are young, mute the commercials and, if possible, give them something else to do during that time. With older children, discuss the ads. Ask them questions about what they think the ad is for, the methods it uses to sell a product to them, and what other messages the ad may contain that you may or may not want your children to absorb. Such questions and conversation can help teach your kids to be critical users of media.
Remember that all media are educational, and this is another opportunity for you to help guide your children’s learning.
Enjoy your media and use them wisely,