Building a Healthy, Wealthy Future: Sending the Right Message

The culture around us affects how both adults and young people think about food, money, and health.  Adolescents in particular receive daily message from family members, teachers, friends, media, and pop culture that affect their health and financial choices.

Today’s young people spend more time using different forms of media than they anything else (with the exception of sleeping)—social networking, television, texting, etc.  Many advertising campaigns use media to specifically target adolescents, who can influence the buying decisions of their families.  Companies hope to develop brand loyalty so this group will continue to purchase their products as adults.  Messages adolescents receive from such media can affect them both now and in the future.

Have a conversation with your son or daughter about the influence of media messages on their lifestyle choices.  Begin by explaining that the way we dress, what we eat, and the music we listen to, are all decisions which our influenced by our environment.  It is important that your adolescent become more aware of how the environment’s daily media messages influence the choices he or she makes every day.

Discussing your adolescent’s decision-making process is important not only for him/her, but also to help you as a parent stay actively involved in the everyday decisions that he or she makes.  To help your adolescent explore examples of both positive and negative media messages, take time to watch a television show together. The average television show lasts about 22 minutes, which means your adolescent is watching eight minutes of commercials per episode!  Start the conversation by sharing stories with your adolescent about when they were a preschool and may have asked for a specific toy or cereal because they had seen it advertised on a Saturday morning cartoon.   To help you child become more aware of the products marketed toward tends, track the number and type of commercial viewed.  After the show is over, have a conversation about the types of message received using the following prompts as conversation starters:

  1. How many commercials were in the program?
  2. How many had positive messages?  What types of messages were they?
  3. How many had negative messages? What types of message were they?
  4. Which commercials made you more likely to want something or do something different?
  5. Did the commercial that made you want something different have anything in common?  Were they funny?  Were they targeted at your age group?  Anything else?

Encourage your adolescent to try recognize the influence of media and advertisement on his or her lifestyle decisions and to be an independent thinker.

Sending the Right Message is part of the University of Kentucky’s Building a Healthy Wealthy Future curriculum.  The curriculum and publication series can be accessed at


Written by: Drs. Jennifer Hunter and Nichole Huff