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How to help your kids avoid back-to-school marketing madness

I'm the Parenting Editor at Common Sense Media, and I started blogging to help families navigate the complex world of media and technology in kids' lives. I'm a family-technology expert who specializes in approaching media literacy is...

Teach your kids to be "ad savvy" so they learn to view media critically

It's no wonder that stores are marketing big-ticket items such as electronics and pushing costly new school supplies as must-haves for school. According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), today's high school students have more influence over their parents' back-to-school buying decisions than ever before.

You may be able to avoid impulse-buying by shopping online. But that won't solve the problem of your kids getting targeted with back-to-school buying messages through websites, online games, Facebook updates, and even YouTube.

Plus, social shopping -- wherein kids spread the message about their favorite products to other kids online -- is gaining momentum with marketers. Help your kids learn to recognize -- and avoid clicking on -- these types of promotions.

Always keep your family's budget and practical needs in mind as you shop. If your kids are interested in a product, challenge them to comparison shop and list the pros and cons of an item. Help them figure out what they really need -- as opposed to what they want (and may get tired of soon). If you have the teachers' school supplies list, pay attention to the "no" items -- for example, why buy a fancy calculator if they're not allowed in school? Encourage kids to join their peers in spending their own money (which, according to the NRF's survey, averages about $34.40 per kid).

Beyond that, nurture a healthy sense of skepticism -- what we call "ad savvy" -- so your kids learn to view media critically.

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