Section 2: Valuing children as children, not consumers

"I think it’s unfair because kids, obviously they haven’t got the money, they don’t understand that things cost money and if you haven’t got it you haven’t got it. Also I think they’re causing a lot of parents problems because (it) will just be, ‘I want it, I want it, I want it’, and cause you a lot of grief and force a lot of parents to buy things that they can’t actually afford. No, kids shouldn’t be targeted at this age, they’re kids, they shouldn’t be targeted."

Source: ComRes for Mothers’ Union

Valuing children as children, not consumers, is at the very heart of our work. Whilst progress has been made since 2010, our latest findings show that there is still much work to be done to ensure that children are not exposed to inappropriate advertising, and are empowered to be resilient to commercial pressures.

68% of parents agree that advertising that can be seen by children can be harmful to them, an increase of nine percentage points since 2010. (13)

Children and young people are influenced by fads and trends which have an impact on their consumption habits.

"If [we] see a billboard of Ronaldo wearing expensive shoes my son will say, [begging tone] ‘Oh, please buy me this’ ... Or haircut, if it’s TV commercial about a new haircut or photo of David Beckham, kids can copy it. Sometimes it’s a very strong message for them."

Source: ComRes for Mothers’ Union

Our qualitative research clearly shows the all-pervasive nature of the commercialisation of childhood and the fact that the effects of the commercialisation of childhood are not restricted to children. The interviews demonstrated that ‘peer pressure’ affects parents just as much as the children to whom products are marketed.

In many instances, mass marketing has acted to ‘normalise’ products through the sheer volume of their presence in the market place. Many products and services aimed at children are surrounded by a deluge of advertising, online presence and merchandise, making them inescapable in the home, school and public space. The feeling that every other child seems to have a certain product does impact on parents and they sometimes feel that they cannot deny their children access to these products. Despite the cost that this often entails, parents do not want their children to feel isolated or excluded or that they are missing out on something which almost ceases to be seen as optional through its sheer prevalence in day-to-day life.

"There’s a lot of pressure, I think, to be a parent in this world and it is expensive. You can fight against it all, you know, ‘I don’t want to do that, I don’t want to do that,’ but ultimately, no one wants their kid to be the only one, the only child that hasn’t got this or hasn’t got that. So it is difficult."

Source: ComRes for Mothers’ Union

This pressure is not only limited to goods, but also extends to the type of media content children and young people are exposed to and view.

"For example, some of his friends they’ve been allowed to go see PG 12 movies or movies that are above their age category where I think that actually I think if you go and see that you’ll be scared, or you’ll have nightmares or something like that, so I get the, ‘Oh it’s not fair, so and so gets to go and watch it, or so and so is allowed to watch these kinds of movies’. I know that’s because maybe they’ve got older siblings who are allowed to watch them, and they’ll watch them at home and then these kids inevitably get drawn into watching things that are not suitable for them. I try and teach them what’s appropriate and what’s not appropriate."

Source: ComRes for Mothers’ Union


(13) Source: ComRes for Mothers’ Union