Ronald McDonald is more easily recognized than Superman– but is this a good thing?
A survey of 3-5 year-olds found that they recognized 5x more corporate brand logos (like Starbucks, Superman, Batman, Shell, Toyota, Disney, McDonalds, Nike, Apple and Pepsi ) compared to nature pictures (like a white tailed deer, a coyote, the Alberta Wild Rose and a Peregrine Falcon.)
Research has shown that children younger than 8, are cognitively and psychologically defenseless against advertising.
WHY? Young children usually accept advertising claims at face value. In fact, the American Federal Trade Commission concluded it was unfair and deceptive to advertise to children younger than 6, but in practice it is hard to implement this.
What can parents do?
1) Talk to your child –this helps develop critical thinking –
· Ask them what they liked about an ad – was it the colors, the music, the characters?
· Ask them how the ad made them feel – happy, excited?
· Then ask your child what they liked about the product and why they want it
This process can help them avoid making emotional decisions and instead make more informed and rational decision.
2) Recognize that not all TV watching is negative
In my research I examined the impact of TV watching on vocabulary skills in toddlers (as this represents a critical developmental period). Parents told us the television watching habits of their children in different genres (educational, cartoons, baby DVDs, adult entertainment). Here is what I found:
a) Television did not hurt vocabulary scores
b) But it didn’t help either! More time spent watching educational programs was associated with less time reading factual books.
c) Reading educational books & playing memory boosted vocabulary skills