A New South Wales academic is encouraging children as young as five to critically analyse advertising, media and popular culture "messages".
Karen Brooks, a Southern Cross University Associate Professor, says that kids aged five to 18-referred to as "screenagers" or "mediavores"-should be taught the skills to deal with the onslaught of sexualised images and persuasive advertising they see everyday.
These kids spend up to eight hours a day using televisions, computers and mobile phones, but these technologies were not used enough in classrooms.
She said that giving students the "tools" to decode media messages could help address issues with body image, eating disorders and perceptions of reality.
Brooks urged that popular culture and the use of new technologies in schools should be addressed as part of the new national curriculum.
"If kids are having advertising targeted at them then it is incumbent on us to be intervening in those messages in school and in the home," News.com.au quoted her as saying.
"It's important that we... start to teach kids about how these messages are constructed, how to put together what their purpose is, that they are to sell products. The way to do it is to use popular culture (in the classroom) from a very, very young age.
We should be using these messages and teaching (children) how to construct them themselves.
"It's absolutely shocking that they have to wait until university to learn about something that bombards them every day," she added.
SA Primary Principals Association president Steve Portlock agreed that it was important for students to understand the effects of media, but said it was already covered in the state's schools.
"We look at the internet and bias in relation to advertising," he said.
"We teach the kids that just because it's on the internet or on TV or in ads doesn't mean it's good and they actually need to have a bit more knowledge and find out what the purpose is," he added.