Characters: Mom; Noel, an eleven-year-old boy; Chase, Noel’s nine-year-old brother
Scene: Mom, Noel, and Chase are sitting on the couch watching a family program on television one evening. A commercial comes on about a new toy, the Commando Robot. The commercial shows a boy playing with the robot.
Chase: Hey, Mom, here’s that commercial for the Commando Robot I told you about. Just look at what it can do and the cool kid playing with it. Man, I want one of those. All the kids at school want one too.
Noel: Yeah, it’s really neat. Tom got one last week for his birthday. (looking at Chase) If we had one, we could make them battle. All the kids at school would want to play with it.
Chase (excitedly): Mom, can we get one of those the next time we go to the store? I have twenty dollars, and it only costs ninety. Can we?
Noel (chiming in with Chase): Can we, Mom? I have fifteen, and we can share. That means you’ll only have to pay, like (putting up his fingers to do the math), fifty-five dollars or something.
(Noel and Chase beg their mother for the toy, Noel getting down on his knees.)
Chase: We’ll be extra good and help with more chores.
Noel: And I’ll wash the car!
Mom (smiling at Chase and Noel, and throwing up her hands to get them to stop begging): Well, I’m glad you’re both willing to work for something you want, but I’m afraid I’m not going to get it for you.
Noel and Chase (looking at each other, then their mother): Why not?
Mom: It doesn’t look like the kind of toy I want you to be playing with. It’s violent. And why do you really want it?
Noel: ’Cause it looks neat in the commercials.
Chase: Yeah, and all the kids at school want one.
Mom (relaxed and reasonable): Well, I don’t think those are very good reasons. Sometimes television can be good, like what we’re watching now or educational programs. But other times, it sends the wrong message. You think if you get that toy you’ll be more popular with your friends, right? (Chase and Noel nod their heads.) The advertisers set it up that way. Look at the boy in the commercial—he’s cool, like you said, Chase. But you don’t need the robot or toys to make more friends. Commercials can try to trick you sometimes, and you really have to look closely to perceive how.
Chase (looking suspicious): Trick us? How?
Mom: Well, like cereal ads. They say a super-sweet cereal is part of a balanced breakfast, when really it’s not. It’s really just a lot of sugar.
Noel: You’re right. I’ve seen lots of those. I guess we have to be careful when we watch television.
Mom: Just look closely at what you see, and ask questions about it. (smiling) I won’t purchase the robot, but we can go to the store and get a different toy tomorrow.
Chase: Great, Mom. ’Cause I saw this commercial for a new Whacky Ball…
Noel and Mom: Chase! (all laugh)