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C'est la Vie: A Barrage of Half Truths

Children and television: two words that immediately bring a negative connotation in circles of moms I rub shoulders with. I mean the two words in combination, not separately... just to be clear. There is no doubt that television effects children. There have been countless studies done on the subject by universities and independent organizations, I'm linking you to just two here. In particular, I've been disturbed by the commercials that my kids have repeated in recent days.

"Mom, did you know that [this toy] can fly 100 feet into the air?" You and I both know that toy is going no where near 100 feet in the air. If we even get it 20 feet in the air it's sure to end up in a tree or on the roof.

"Mom, [that gadget] can hang on the wall in the bathroom and squeeze your toothpaste out for you!" Boy, that must save at least three seconds of your life. A real deal for just $25 plus shipping and handling.

"Mom, if you shop at [this store] you'll save up to 70% this weekend." I'll save 100% by not going at all.

The advertisers are getting to them. And I have to confess to you that our kids watch very little television at all. In fact, 95% of what they do watch doesn't have commercials at all. That makes their ability to repeat nearly word for word what the commercials say so shocking. Commercials are designed to make me want something that I don't need. Everything about them, if done well, either makes me remember the product or create a desire to have whatever product they are selling. Which begs the questions: 1) Do I want to subject my children to this? 2) Since I don't have much choice, how do I help them to understand the trick that is being played on them?

Unless you are an advertising executive, I think the answer to the first questions is a simple "no." Of course we don't want our children to be subjected to a barrage of half-truths that will create confusion about reality and a skewed understanding of "needs." So how do we address the issue of helping them to understand? I'll admit that I have been knowing to make a purchase based on advertising! I'm betting you have too. Why? Because it can appear that we are making a choice based on information. What we forget is that for hundreds and thousands of years the human race lived without the conveniences that we are told are necessity.

I guess I would offer two simple pieces of advice. First, if your children are under five years old, don't let them view television with commercials. Stick to kid-centered channels with no commercial advertisements or videos that you have previewed. If kids are older than five, start talking to them about what commercials are and why they are on television. Explain to them that, just like television programming, not everything they see is TRUTH. Commercials are created to sell you something and they are betting that you will want it. Watch some commercials together and point out the falsities and ask the question, "Is that something our family would need?" It's okay if the answer is "yes." For example, do you need laundry detergent? Sure. Do you have to purchase a particular brand? Tricky question. You may prefer a certain brand, but you could wash your family's clothes with any number of brand-name or generic detergent. Talk about how you choose what to use based on price, environmental impact, or scent.

Have you navigated this issue with your kids already? I'm sure we'd all love to hear your wisdom!

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