Advertising Ban Won't Stop 'Brand Bullying', Says Childhood Expert

By Sherwin, Adam | The Independent (London, England), September 15, 2011 | Go to article overview
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Advertising Ban Won't Stop 'Brand Bullying', Says Childhood Expert


Sherwin, Adam, The Independent (London, England)


Claims that consumerism is blighting the lives of British children have prompted calls for radical action. Adam Sherwin reports

a government proposal for a total ban on advertising aimed at children would fail to end the cycle of "compulsive consumerism" in which parents are trapped, the Government's adviser on young people has warned.

A prohibition on advertising targeted at under-16s was one of the proposals mooted in a leaked document drawn up by a Downing Street aide, containing policies designed to woo women voters.

A ban on the 100m industry targeting British children through television, radio, billboards and online advertising would put commercial children's channels out of business and hit food, electronics and entertainment giants.

But Reg Bailey, chief executive of the Mothers' Union, who published a report for the Government into the commercialisation and sexualisation of young children, said insidious marketing via the internet would make an advertising ban ineffective.

The Downing Street leak coincided with the publication of a Unicef report warning that materialism had come to dominate family life in the UK as parents "pointlessly" amass goods for their children to compensate for long working hours.

Unicef suggested the obsession with consumer goods was an underlying cause of last month's riots and looting. Parents trap their children in a cycle of "compulsive consumerism" by showering them with toys and designer labels instead of spending time with them. Children were much happier in Spain and Sweden where the obsession with consumerism was far less embedded and family time prioritised.

The report called on the Government to emulate Sweden, which introduced a ban on television advertising aimed at children under the age of 12, in 1991. However, Mr Bailey said: "Parents told me they could cope with conventional advertising and didn't want a ban. It's the online behaviour, which bypasses parental influence, that they didn't understand. It's that pressure which comes from advertising around web search engines."

Mr Bailey, who agreed with the Unicef analysis, said: "Parents do lack confidence in their parenting skills and they give their children goods and toys as a substitute for giving them their time. Parents are loath to allow their child to be singled out for bullying because they haven't got the right brands or the latest iPad."

Children's minister Sarah Teather said she "shared Unicef's concerns about the rise of consumerism" and was working to implement Mr Bailey's recommendations, including restricting outdoor adverts containing sexualised imagery where children can see them. Ofcom introduced a ban on junk food advertising on programmes aimed at children under 16 in 2007. The regulators said the restrictions had reduced children's overall exposure to such adverts by 37 per cent.

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Advertising Ban Won't Stop 'Brand Bullying', Says Childhood Expert
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