Parents, please familiarize yourself with this site, the content within it, and any additional materials you think are necessary for you to know this information.
While electronic media use should be diminished, it would prove difficult to prohibit all such use, unless such devices were completely eliminated from your home: all televisions, computers, cell phones, electronic readers, video game consoles, and the like. Even if this were to happen, it would be nearly impossible to maintain an electronic-free environment when your child is at frends' homes, at school, or moved out as an adult. [Many parents do not themselves want en electronic-free environment, nor is it feasible to do so in our contemporary business culture.] Thus, teaching your child to interpret visual media is more necessary today than in the past. This can be accomplished while your child is watching television as long as you accompany them and ask them to ask questions about what they are seeing. Electronic babysitting is not advised - to understand why, please read/watch all the other materials on this site. Advice is to limit tv watching to: 1-3 hours a week during school months [with the occasional movie] and 1-6 hours a week during non-school months [also with the occasional movie].
Here are my age recommendations for teaching youth this information:
6-7 yrs old: Children this age are able to understand simple questions that promote an understanding of splitting information. During television commercials, ask them if the commercial shows how the product being promoted functions. An example: during a Skechers shoe commercial, as if the commercial shows if the shoe will make the wearer run faster, jump higher, protect the feet better, or aid in overall walking [compared to other shoes]. The answer should be 'no'. If he/she says 'yes', then ask how the shoe commercial shows this. They may be confusing the connotations with the denotations, or the symbolic with the actual.
Proceed to ask what they do show about the shoe; this will typically be that the shoe is 'cool', or other connotations.
Do this with other commercials as well - split the commercial between what is factually presented and what is suggestively, implicitly, or symbolically presented. Do this a handful of times at first and continue to let them watch their short amount of tv. Do this every so often - perhaps once or twice a month.
No need to use the terms denotation or connotation, or even to say that you are splitting the commercial into two. Just have a conversation with your child. No need to make this into an academic exercise. Of course, if your child prefers academic exercises, or shows a strong desire to know more, than do as much as he/she wants.
Discuss: why are the images enhanced? [for example, do sparkles with come with the product - I am pretending that some commercial products have sparkles in them]
Why do the shoes [or product] have __________? [colored lightning bolts, flashing police lights, princesses, tanks, soldiers, laughing cartoon characters, etc?] Are those elements being sold or is the actual product being sold?
8-9 yrs old:
10-12 yrs old:
12 and above: