Apr 4

“Daddy! I’m watching ads!”

According to studies, the skill to distinguish commercials from television show content is acquired at around five years of age. The actual understanding of what ads are only comes at around seven or eight years-old.

Children are the target of advertising on some channels long before they have the ability to understand what they are seeing.

Doesn’t quite seem fair to me.

But I bring some good news ‘ while that skill to distinguish between ads and regular content may be acquired around age five, it can be taught much earlier. Somewhere between 24 and 30 months old, my first daughter’s cries of, “Daddy! I’m watching ads!” began.

And they haven’t stopped since.

Daisy will not tolerate ads. She is now four and that hasn’t changed (though I imagine it may well at some point). Alice is just two and she too calls out when ads are on. She even asked to “watch something else” when she spotted ads playing on a huge screen at a shopping centre yesterday.

So, if you are at all concerned about the effects of advertising on your children or their own ability to identify what they are seeing, I found what it takes is just to point it out every time an ad comes on. For me it was dismissive, “Oh, that’s just an ad. We don’t watch those,” followed by a channel change or a DVD. You may not have to do that ‘ you might well be happy just arming your child with the knowledge of what they are. Or you may want to be much stronger about it.

But you don’t have to wait until they pick that skill up themselves. It can be taught.

2 thoughts on ““Daddy! I’m watching ads!”

  1. simon

    Our girls are 5 and 6 and for the last couple of years they’ve only ever seen either DVDs or the ad-free BBC. On the rare occasions that they see some ads they’re pretty happy to skip through them and get back to the cartoons as soon as possible. Maybe later they’ll start to take more notice, but for the moment they’re simply not interested in anything that isn’t original programming.

  2. Jay Post author

    Avoiding ads where possible is definitely a strategy I’d endorse and great to hear it’s working for you. They may well take more notice when older but they’ll be far better equipped to process and understand what they’re seeing at that point.


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