How media literate are we? The voices of 9 years old children about brands, ads and their online community practices


  • Conceição Gonçalves Costa CICANT-UHLT
  • Manuel José Damásio CICANT-UHLT



media literacy, participative web design, marketing to children, online communities, activity theory


The ubiquity of media in our society and the use of the Internet and in particular the World Wide Web as a convergent medium for a huge diversity of content and formats (movies in cinema and in YouTube, radio and cartoons on the Web and TV, social networks) has been a concern of academics, educators and governments. In what concerns to children audiences, the focus has been on safety and security of children and the correspondent online data protection. Questions of the impact of subliminal forms of marketing communication target to children start to emerge in a world where marketing strategies and entertainment are more and more connected. The main goal of this study is to explore what children aged from 8-10 years old think of brands, ads and their purpose. Can they understand the difference between a brand and an advertisement? Do they like/dislike ads from ? From which place/media/person they recognize brands and ads (even if they don’t use or know the product)? We are interested in questions such us: if children socialize more and more with media, what are the risks and the opportunities? Do they need a media literacy program or do they learn by themselves to distinguish informational and persuasive media? To answer these questions we have been working with an elementary school community (class) since March 2009. We have been using an ethnographic approach and our conceptual framework is based on the Activity Theory. The activities developed with children (community) are about old and new media learning, supported by the usage of a private Web Site (tool) ( and moderated by the researcher. The question of the engagement with new media and how to design and use such IT platforms at school is also discussed. The relationship of these children with media as “users”, as “spectators” and as “creators” has been observed and the results will be presented .

Author Biographies

Conceição Gonçalves Costa, CICANT-UHLT

Conceição Costa is a PHD student at FCSH-Universidade Nova de Lisboa, researching on Children and Consumption: media culture and the impact on their identity. She holds a Master of Arts in Business Communication and Public Relations from the European University and she is a Certified Usability Analyst from Human Factors International (USA). Currently she is a Professor and Researcher (CICANT) at the Department of Communication Studies, Art and Information Technologies of Universidade Lusófona (UHLT) in Lisbon, Portugal. She is a lecturer for the following courses: Marketing and Advertising; Human-Computer Interaction and Scripting for Virtual Environments.

Manuel José Damásio, CICANT-UHLT

Manuel José Damásio is a PHD in Communication Sciences from UNL and the Director of Bachelor degree in Cinema, Video and Multimedia Communication. He is also the Researcher Coordinator at several research projects related to media, culture and society.




How to Cite

Costa, C. G., & Damásio, M. J. (2010). How media literate are we? The voices of 9 years old children about brands, ads and their online community practices. Observatorio (OBS*), 4(4).