Advertisements and You

This lesson starts by showing children some of the kinds of advertisements they might run into online and helping them analyze these ads with a critical eye.
Grade Level


Students will be able to:

  • Identify digital advertisements
  • Read digital advertisements critically
  • Determine strategies for responding to digital advertisements
Essential Questions
  • What is an advertisement?
  • How can we protect ourselves from being tricked by advertisements?

Ads on the Internet handout
(This handout requires planning. Visit websites relevant to your students and take screenshots of ads that appear to target young audiences. Provide a diverse range of examples on a single handout.)


advertisement [ad ver tayz mehnt] (noun) a notice that promotes a particular product, event or service to the public or a subset of the public

consumer [kuhn soo mer] (noun) a person who purchases or can purchase products and services to use

react [ree AKT] (verb) behave or feel a certain way because of something else


Series Overview

As technology advances and the social landscape shifts, it is crucial for students to become digitally literate citizens. In this series, elementary students will learn the ins and outs of media literacy, from choosing reliable sources and understanding online searches to navigating online security and participating in digital communities.


Lesson Overview

As children use digital media with increasing frequency, advertisers who work with digital platforms continue to understand even the youngest kids as an ideal target audience. Among other things, this means it is important to help children learn to identify online ads and respond to them sensibly and critically.

This lesson starts by showing children some of the kinds of advertisements they might run into online and helping them analyze these ads with a critical eye. Your students will think about the purpose behind the ads as well as the way they affect young consumers.

Students will act out different possibilities for how they might react to ads when they see them online. They will consider the pros and cons to each of these reactions and develop some strategies they can use to become sensible online consumers.



Kids Are Consumers

1. Begin by asking your students what an advertisement is and where they sometimes see advertisements. Once you are sure that everyone understands what an advertisement is, ask students to describe different times that advertisements have caused them to react a certain way. Maybe the ad made them want to buy something, go somewhere or try a new activity. Maybe the ad made them feel angry or excited. If it helps, show an ad or two and ask students to talk about what they see and how it makes them feel. Then, ask students to draw pictures of a time they reacted a particular way to an ad, and leave them time to share their pictures if they want to.

2. Show students the handout you created, “Ads on the Internet.” Explain that these ads are from sites that kids frequent a lot. Ask students to circle one of the ads on the handout and sketch a facial expression, or an emoji, that illustrates how that particular ad makes them feel.


Tricky Advertisements

1. Next, explain that sometimes advertisements can trick you into thinking things that might not be all the way true. For example, an ad might make you feel like having a certain toy will make you feel happy all the time, or eating a certain food will cause you to grow tall. Show kids an example of an advertisement targeting kids that you have seen on a poster in your school or community. Explain that this is an ad targeting children, and help them think about what the ad makers hope students will believe based on the ad. Ask students to share their own examples of tricky messages they might get from advertisements.

2. Return to the “Ads on the Internet” handout. Have kids work with partners to identify two to three different tricks these ads play on them. They can talk about these tricks or write them down as sentences. Bring students back together, and give them a chance to articulate how these tricks make them feel.


Being a Critical Consumer

1. Finally, explain to your students that as they use the internet, it is their job to be critical consumers. A consumer is someone who is buying something (or in the case of kids, someone who is trying to get adults to buy something for them). Tell students that being a critical consumer means knowing when they are looking at an advertisement and recognizing or understanding different ways the advertisement might be trying to trick them.

2. As a class, develop a list of three to five strategies kids can use when looking at webpages. Strategies should focus on how to identify whether something is an advertisement as well as what to do to protect themselves from the tricks advertisements can play.


Do Something

Kids might find themselves getting really angry about some of the stereotyping they see online. They can develop their voices by letting companies know how ads targeting children feel to real kid audiences. Encourage students to write letters or editorials describing the way they think kids might be affected by the digital economy, and why. Once everyone has a letter, send them as a bundle to a local newspaper or website. Make sure to keep kids apprised of any responses you receive. If you do not get a response, you can also make a display of their letters in the hallway of your school so that others can learn from them.


Alignment to Common Core State Standards


Describe people, places, things, and events with relevant details, expressing ideas and feelings clearly.


Add drawings or other visual displays to descriptions when appropriate to clarify ideas, thoughts, and feelings.


Use the illustrations and details in a text to describe its key ideas.


Identify the reasons an author gives to support points in a text.