Does your child want to buy everything that looks good in the ads? Make your child an aware consumer so he doesn't get taken for a ride now, or when he grows up.
It couldn't get worse than this. Advertisers have found that to get the biggest market share they don't have to make new customers but actually raise them. And kids seem to fit their bracket perfectly. The result: children today are being bombarded with advertisements. Childhood is not just about toys anymore. It's about popular cartoon characters selling everything under the sun - from chips to cold drinks, from soaps to shoes and from games to computers.
How does this affect your child
Values of money and saving have taken a backseat as mindless spending on advertised products has become a habit with many children. While studies have found that by the age of 4 children can recognize brands, they still take ads on their face value. They believe what they see and it affects how they interpret the world around them.
According to them, you can even become sharp by eating a particular brand of cornflakes - studies don't count. Similarly, you are cool if you know everything about the latest Playstation or Xbox . Incessant and mindless advertising like this distorts their self-image. And it doesn't stop with one product. Regular upgrades and newer versions of their products breed dissatisfaction among kids.
But the most disturbing and alarming effect of ads is on the health of your child. Junk food advertisements form the major chunk of commercials aimed at children. Unhealthy foods like pizzas, burgers, cold drinks and wafers have become a part of their daily diets.
Help your child be an aware consumer
As a parent you not only have to protect your child from this material culture, you also have to help him make aware choices.
Your first step is tackling the advertisements. If he wants to watch a cartoon channel let him. But try to introduce ad-free channels, too. All these channels have programs especially for kids. On some occasions you can also play him cartoon DVDs and taped programs.
Mute commercial breaks.
Try reasoning. Point out differences between the actual product and the one being aired on the television. For example, your child can easily see that although fast food chains show big toys in their combo meals, they turn out to be as small as their portions.
Inculcate wise shopping habits. Always make a list and a budget before going shopping with kids. Set a price limit for your child, too. If he can shop only for Rs 10, help him identify what all he can buy and compare the different brands before making a choice.
Teach her to read product labels, especially those on food items. Start with telling her how to read food label on the cereal box. Its nutrition chart will tell how much vitamins, iron, proteins, carbohydrates or fats she will get by eating it.
Giving pocket money also helps. Your child should be responsible for his purchasing decisions.
Steer away from malls on your weekend outings. Plan trips to museum, zoo or amusement parks. The time you spend with your family should be sacrosanct. Don't dilute the fun and bonding by television or video games.
Older children can be taught how to differentiate between what they need and what they want. If your child has to buy shoes, help him pick a sturdy good-looking pair and not an expensive branded one.
Teach the value of money by involving her in activities like helping the less privileged ones by donating money or time.
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- The Indiaparenting Team