WASHINGTON, D.C.--Everyone spends money, but not everyone knows how to get the most for what they spend. Nationwide, children spend billions of dollars for millions of products -- toys, video games, clothing, music, food, and more. To help the country's pre-teens smarten up about shopping, the Federal Trade Commission and the National Association of Attorneys General have joined forces in a major national education effort. The centerpiece of the campaign is "The Real Deal," a full-color, 12-page activity book.
"Our goal is to give American children a few fundamental and fun lessons in the basics of playing the buying game," said Jodie Bernstein, Director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection. "These lessons are important. Even older people -- parents, grandparents, and siblings -- may learn a few things about savvy shopping. The end result will be smarter, more sophisticated families of shoppers. We encourage advertisers, retailers, and others to join us in this effort to help youngsters become more confident consumers."
"The Real Deal" has games, puzzles, cartoons, comics, and other entertaining and educational activities. The campaign also involves radio public service announcements (PSAs) that will be sent to hundreds of stations nationwide.
"While there are a number of education campaigns that target high school students, children in middle schools are virtually ignored, leaving them inexperienced and unarmed as they begin to deal with common consumer issues," said New Mexico Attorney General Tom Udall, President of NAAG. "We will seek through this national campaign to encourage youngsters to be smart, responsible, and savvy consumers, to promote consumer confidence, and to promote long-term responsible consumer habits."
The campaign aims to teach youngsters their rights and responsibilities as consumers. Among the "top tips" offered are:
- read between the lines and separate facts from fantasy when reading an ad or listening to a commercial;
- think before buying (what do you want? what do you need? what's your budget?) and carefully research product claims;
- ask questions and talk to friends, parents, teachers and others who might be familiar with a product you're interested in;
- try before you buy (call a friend who has the item or ask the salesperson for a demonstration);
- shop around by telephone and call three stores to compare prices, models, and return policies;
- be assertive and tell the store manager right away if there's a problem.
"Our youth are bombarded with commercial messages from so many sources every day. They need to start learning how to distill the real information from all the hype. This campaign provides young people with a fun way to learn important skills," said Tennessee Attorney General Charles W. Burson, former NAAG President. Burson established "the children" as the Association's theme during his tenure in office, when the groups started work on this consumer education campaign. "Consumer Reports" recently noted that businesses, trade associations, and other organizations target 30,000 commercial messages to youngsters every day.
The pre-teen audience is a significant one. Consumer experts note that the nearly 40 million children ages 5 to 14 directly purchase $16.7 billion worth of food, drinks, toys, and videos each year and influence another $165 billion in sales. The children's market for consumer goods has increased by 20 percent in the past seven years.
The initial printing of the activity book will total nearly 250,000 copies to be distributed across the country. The radio PSAs will go to more than 400 stations throughout the United sates and will provide the FTC's new toll-free telephone number (1-800-769-7960) for parents and children to call to receive a free copy of the activity book.