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Online Game Teaches Kids to Be Smart About Advertising

“Advertising is all around you,” says Haze.  He’s an animated guide in a new online game sponsored by the Bureau of Consumer Protection of the Federal Trade Commission called Admongo.

Parents often try to shield their young children from commercialism — turning off the TV, limiting licensed characters, and steering kids away from unhealthy processed foods like Barbie Poptarts.  But as they grow, kids — like adults — are exposed to advertising everywhere they go.

Through Admongo, the FTC hopes to teach kids to be discerning without demonizing advertisers.  From the New York Times:

The idea that children need to better understand how commercial speech differs from other forms of communication is not a new one. Many schools have courses in what is called media literacy, intended to help students analyze various methods of persuasion, among them sponsored messages.

The goal is generally “to help kids start to understand the commercial world they live in and to be alert to, and think critically, of advertising,” said David Vladeck, director of the bureau in Washington.

In Admongo, kids steer their avatar around a virtual city looking for ads to collect. When they find one, they answer questions about and learn tips on how to better understand what advertisers are saying. The game teaches kids to ask three questions when they see an ad:

  • Who is responsible for the ad?
  • What is the ad actually saying?
  • What does the ad want me to do?

Though the game is available to anyone online, the Bureau of Consumer Protection of the Federal Trade Commission is teaming up with Scholastic to distribute materials to schools and get the game into classrooms.

“We help teachers explain the world around them to the children,” said Ann Amstutz Hayes, vice president at Scholastic In School. For the bureau, “we’re informing the kids about advertising,” she said, “because it’s so important they understand what it is and make informed decisions.”

Do your kids pay attention to advertising? If so, how do you teach them to be good consumers?
Photo: Francisco Diez, Flickr

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