The Deceptive Power of Advertisements


Tomek stares at the television screen, mesmerized. He is all ears as a commercial message persuades listeners: “When your son wears this, he will be strong, athletic, and admired by his friends. You must buy it!” Tomek runs to his dad, humming the catchy tune he has just heard. “Daddy, will you buy it for me?” he asks.

▪ Why do children want what is advertised? “Because others have those things, they want them too. They want to maintain their status within the group,” explains an educator quoted in the Polish magazine Rewia. When children beg, cry, and sulk, some parents often give in and buy the product their offspring want.

What makes an advertisement that targets children so deceptive? Its content “does not focus on the price, quality, or usefulness of the product,” explains psychologist Jolanta Wąs. The ad is designed “to create emotional involvement.” Wąs notes: “Young children will not analyze a story told in an advertisement. . . . They do not compare the information presented with their understanding of the world.” And even if they try to do so, their understanding may be too limited to evaluate the product accurately.

How can you protect your child from the deceptive power of advertisements? First, “you have to spend time with your child and keep on explaining that a person’s worth is not measured by the particular brand of shoes [or clothes] he wears,” says Rewia. Let your child know that it is possible to have a happy childhood without the newest toys. Second, parents themselves must be aware of how advertisements can influence their children. The key is not to “allow advertising to dictate to us what is good for our child,” recommends Wąs.

Finally, all parents can benefit from the counsel contained in the Bible. The apostle John wrote: “Everything in the world​—the desire of the flesh and the desire of the eyes and the showy display of one’s means of life—​does not originate with the Father, but originates with the world.”​—1 John 2:15, 16.

Do you not agree that many advertisements appeal to “the desire of the eyes” and move young as well as old to make a “showy display of [their] means of life”? Interestingly, the apostle John continued his counsel, writing: “The world is passing away and so is its desire, but he that does the will of God remains forever.”​—1 John 2:17.

Parents who regularly spend time in upbuilding conversation with their children can inculcate in them godly principles and worthwhile values. (Deuteronomy 6:5-7) Then children will not be so easily swayed by the deceptive advertisements of this world, which are designed to get them to pressure their parents into buying things for them.