One way to counteract the effect of advertising is to help your kids dissect it. That’s the advice of Bob Smithouser, an editor with Focus on the Family’s Plugged In Online (pluggedinonline.com). “Are your young people savvy enough to spend wisely?” he writes:

 Here are questions you can ask teens as you dissect advertising:

❏ What is the sponsor really selling, the product itself or just an image connected with the product?

❏ Is this ad trying to exploit a human weakness such as vanity, lust, greed, pride, envy, or a desperate need to be accepted by others?

❏ What’s the catch? Is there fine print or a hidden disclaimer that exposes this as an offer that really is too good to be true?

❏ Why do some ads want customers to “buy now, pay later”? What will that cost in the long run?

❏ Do I really need this product, or is the sponsor just trying to create a need for this product? People are constantly being made to feel insecure about bad breath, impending baldness, or the devastation of a dropped cell phone call. And for every manufactured fear, there’s a product or service waiting to restore calm.

❏ What information is conveniently left out of this commercial message? For example, beyond the sticker price, certain vehicles cost more to insure and maintain than basic transportation.

The good news is that, as the Kaiser Family Foundation has reported, kids say their parents have tremendous influence on them. When children and teens face problems or questions, they are more likely to go to Mom or Dad first for advice and help if the parent has previously taken the initiative to talk to and teach their children about difficult issues.

The question is what kind of influence are you having on your children?

When you ignore or pretend you don’t see unhealthy, immoral, or just plain tacky and cheap messages, your child interprets your silence as an endorsement of the material. When you mindlessly plunk down sixty bucks for the latest video game, or give your ten-year-old the cash to buy clothes that make her look like a street-walker, you’re part of the problem.

Don’t walk silently past that Victoria’s Secret display at your local mall. Tell your kids why it’s wrong. Ask your children pointed questions about the TV shows and movies that interest them. Find out what they think—so you can spark discussions that will give you a chance to tell them what you think—and why.


Rebecca Hagelin is a media commentator, public speaker on family and the culture, and the author of, "Home Invasion: Protecting Your Family in a Culture That's Gone Stark Raving Mad." To learn more about her book or to invite Rebecca to speak at your event, visit http://www.homeinvasion.org/ or e-mail her at rebecca.hagelin@hotmail.com. Rebecca's next book, "30 Ways in 30 Days to
Save Your Family" will be released by Regnery on April 6.