While driving my eight-year-old daughter to Riverside Drive Elementary School in Sherman Oaks, she commented on a billboard on Van Nuys Blvd. advertising wine. She asked, “Why don’t you drink that stuff? It’s really cool.” I couldn’t believe the influence of advertising on my kid. What can a parent do about that?

Shocked Mom

Dear Shocked Mom,

Children are constantly bombarded with advertising on billboards, TV, and the Internet that tells them about the pleasures of alcohol, tobacco and unhealthy foods. Every year the advertising industry spends over $15 billion on ads specifically targeted to children. Even TV programs show popular people drinking and smoking, looking healthy, happy and successful.

It’s up to parents to teach their children the truth about these ads. Research shows that far out in front of television and the Internet, the family has the most influence over children. It’s time to wield your magic sword. Here’s what I suggest you do:

Influence Of Advertising On Children
Influence Of Advertising On Children

Monitor what your daughter watches on television and on line. Take some time and enjoy a show with her. If you notice a commercial or scene you find disturbing, discuss it with your child. Let her know your views on cigarettes and alcohol. Tell her about Uncle Fred who shortened his life drinking too much wine. Explain how Aunt Shannon died at an early age from lung cancer because she smoked three packs a day.

American children spend too much time in front of a TV or computer screen. So when you pick up your child after school, spend the beautiful afternoon playing in a park like Lake Balboa near Encino. After homework is completed and the dinner dishes are put away, play board games or read a book together.

Building the parent child bond is your responsibility. If you want your girl to grow up developmentally sound with focused attention, good judgment, excellent listening skills and a persistent nature, it won’t be learned from a screen. Those good skills are learned from you.