Parents still concerned about the commercialisation of childhood

18th March 2015

Parents remain concerned about the impact advertising and marketing are having, both directly and indirectly, on the lives of children and young people a new Report reveals. 

Research published today by Mothers’ Union reveals that despite welcome attention since 2010, four in five (80%) parents in Britain are  concerned about the commercialisation of childhood, and a similar proportion (81%)  say that the media encourages their children to ask their parents to buy them things that they see advertised, indicating the potential impact of “Pester Power”. 

The research, which was carried out by ComRes with over 1,000 parents in Great Britain in 2010 and 2013, also demonstrates that the proportion of parents who think advertising that can be seen by children is well regulated has decreased since the charity’s previous research in 2010. Just 30% of parents in Great Britain agree that advertising is well regulated in 2013, compared to two in five (39%) who said this in 2010. 

Speaking as the research was published, Head of Faith & Policy and report author Lucinda Hasell said, “the subject of the commercialisation of children has received a lot of welcome attention in the last few years, but our research shows that parents are still concerned about this issue, and only half (51%) of those we spoke to felt equipped to manage the influence of advertising and the commercial world on their family.  Further steps need to be taken to ensure that children are not exposed to inappropriate advertising and marketing and that parents are empowered to manage the impact of the commercial world

Mothers’ Union will be continuing the Bye Buy Childhood campaign, and is calling on the Government to consider why parents are still concerned about the commercialisation of childhood. Through the report they make six recommendations to Government that they believe will ensure children and family life are not adversely impacted by commercialisation. 

“We are calling on politicians to ensure that this important issue remains a priority for the next government” said Mrs Hasell “Nearly half of parents we spoke to (45%) felt that advertising treated children as adults and 68% felt that advertising seen by children can be harmful to them. It is important that industry adheres not simply to the letter of existing regulation, but also considers how to meet the spirit of the regulation. Parents need to have support in both this way and also in the resources and information available to them, to ensure that the childhood of their children is valued by society as a whole.”

Chief Executive of Mothers’ Union, Reg Bailey, whose own 14 recommendations to Government (Bailey Review 2011) have largely been met, agreed that more still needs to be done to maintain vigilance on the way commercialisation affects children. “We’re not looking to wrap children up in cotton wool. We want to say to parents, government, industry and all those who support children, that developing emotional resilience is a key part of enabling our children and young people to deal with the challenges and pressures they face as they engage with the commercial world. Nevertheless, this shouldn’t have to be an uphill struggle for parents – they too need to be provided with effective support. These recommendations are a vital step on the way.”

The qualitative research reveals that parents want to equip their children to be confident and ‘their own people’. Mothers’ Union ongoing campaign will work to ensure that parents, children and young people are educated, equipped and empowered to help create and increase resilience.