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Mental Health: The youth market

Students require opportunities to develop the understandings and skills they need to respond constructively to advertising in the media.

Possible learning activities

In small groups, the students work in different areas of the school to make a list of commercial products and services advertised in the school environment. They will need to examine their surroundings very carefully to discover all the ways that goods or services are promoted, for example, by small logos and trademarks and small notices as well as by large colourful advertisements. Advertisements can often be found around the school canteen, on drinks machines, school signs, buildings, vehicles, equipment, and posters and in display areas. As the students move from class to class, they may find advertisements in teaching materials and posters displayed on the walls. They could also look for advertising in newsletters and giveaway magazines and on sports uniforms.

The students discuss why each product is advertised in the school. Reasons may include sponsorship, brands featuring on products, fundraising, promotions, and direct selling. The students discuss the acceptability of each identified type of advertising in terms of its likely effects on members of the school community and identify the values that such advertising reflects. If the students decide that some of these commercial advertisements could have a negative effect on the well-being of the school community, they discuss possible actions to promote changes. (For example, they could propose to the board of trustees that a soft-drink dispenser could be replaced by a dispenser of milk drinks.) The students develop an action plan, carry it out, evaluate its impact, and reflect on any changes in the school community that occur as a result of their action.

Ask the students why advertisers target the youth market. In small groups, the students discuss possible reasons and choose three to five as the most important reasons. Share each group's selected reasons and write them all on the whiteboard. For example, the class might come up with a list like this.

  • Advertisers are just telling young people what is available.
  • Selling products to young people is training them to buy the same products when they are older.
  • It is all about brand awareness so that young people will buy the product once and then again.
  • Young people have a lot of money to spend.
  • Parents have more control over younger children than over teenagers.
  • Companies want to make more money every year.

Ask the students to work in groups or pairs to rank all the listed reasons by placing them on a continuum line, with the reason they think most important at the top and the least important at the bottom. Ranking can also show that some statements have equal value.

Teachers' notes

Choice Action (Osteoporosis New Zealand, 2001) includes, on pages 19-21, a number of activities that relate mental and emotional well-being to media issues.