With the Super Bowl approaching, most families look forward to that time-honored family-centered activity and everything that goes with it: watching football, yelling at the TV, and eating plenty of junk food. Even the kids get into the fun — they can stay up late to see the end of the game and wrestle on the floor with Uncle Bill at half time. While all that amounts to good family fun, there is one part of the Super Bowl evening that could be teaching your children some very bad habits.
When young people see advertisements as part of a family-sanctioned program, they see them as an acceptable part of that program. Essentially, they believe that what they see is appropriate behavior. They haven't been banned from watching it, so therefore in their minds, they figure everything they see is OK to imitate. After all, they're watching it with Mom and Dad right in the room.
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My favorite — or should I say least favorite — inappropriate commercial aired at a Super Bowl several years ago when a well-known chips brand thought it would be funny to show someone trip up an old woman eating a bag of their chips, so that he could steal it from her. Really, advertisers?
Now, in all fairness, not all Super Bowl ads relay bad parenting ideals: On the opposite side of the advertisement coin are the well-known beer ads that show those signature horses accepting the differences of a donkey, helping a fellow horse achieve greatness, or allowing a dog to accompany them. As you can see, these commercials are far better role models than the one previous mentioned. I look forward to seeing what the horses do each year.
So this year, watch the Super Bowl ads through the eyes of a child. What are those ads teaching your children about behavior? What do your kids learn about respect? And what are you going to do if the ads present any of these problem behaviors:
Don't worry, there will be plenty of commercials that also teach about healthy relationships. If the coffee-in-your-cup folks opt to advertise during the Super Bowl, you can bet your week's wages that they will be advertising family togetherness rather than their coffee. It's the way they have rolled for years.
Watch out for the commercials that teach inappropriate behavior, and discuss that behavior with your kids. You don't have to do so during the fun of the game, but keep a notebook handy to jot down what you see. Then the next day, say, "What did you think about the commercial where the kid knocks down his brother to get the last cookie?" If he or she says it was funny, then you'll need to have a good long discussion about the nature of humor — and what's acceptable in "real life" relationships.
So, enjoy the game, munch on the wings, and watch the ads that pay millions of dollars for the placement. What have been your favorite — and least favorite — ads of the past? As a parent, how have you handled ads that promote poor values?
Renee Heiss is a retired teacher of Child Development and the co-author of The EnteleTrons™ Series—books with engaging characters that teach science, language literacy, and character education. They provide a complete learning experience for your children. www.EnteleTrons.com
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