Other Articles



Study finds commercialism harms Britain's kids

by: Robert Winnett

Published: 2:44am GMT 10/12/2007

Source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1572078/Study-finds-commercialism-harms-Britains-kids.html



The increasing commercial exploitation of children is fuelling a rise in bullying, obesity and depression among Britain's youngsters, according to a recent study.

The National Union of Teachers warns that children must be "protected" against increasingly sophisticated marketing and advertising tactics that present "several levels of danger" to young people.

Companies are accused of routinely hiring child and consumer psychologists to "help them target children effectively", with devastating consequences for the health and wellbeing of youngsters.

The damning research is the most comprehensive analysis to date of the increasing impact of advertising on children.

Youngsters are exposed to about 10,000 adverts every year on television, in addition to hundreds of "pop-ups" on the internet. The average 10-year-old is aware of between 300 and 400 different brands.

Companies, including some that market popular foods, are identified in the report as firms that have used marketing strategies that may be "damaging".

Advertising creates a "culture of cool" where children are pressured into having to wear the right labels and look a certain way to fit in, according to the findings.

As a result, parents have become victims of pester power, especially at Christmas, and feel forced to spends large sums of money on the latest toys and fashions.

Tomorrow, Ed Balls, the Schools Secretary, will announce plans for a study of the "commercialisation of children" amid growing pressure on the Government to clampdown on some of the worst excesses. The inquiry forms a key part of the Government's Children's Plan.

Among the findings in the NUT study are:

Children are bombarded with "unrealistic and unachievable images" of what they should look like, leading to an increase in anorexia, bulimia and eating disorders.

Boys as young as 14 are using anabolic steroids to grow faster and bigger.

More than half of children know someone who has been bullied because they did not have the latest gadgets or most fashionable clothes.

Nearly three quarters of seven-year-old girls want to be slimmer.

There is a disturbing trend for pre-teenage girls to wear sexually provocative clothes and make-up.

About 70 per cent of children say there is too much pressure to look perfect and wear the latest fashions.

Nearly a third are unhappy with how they look.

Steve Sinnott, the general secretary of the NUT, said: "Of increasing concern to teachers is the lifestyle pressures exerted on children by the advertising and marketing industries.

"The pressure to consume and conform can lead to excessive levels of materialism and competition among children, leading to bullying. There are dangerous consequences for the physical and mental health of young people.

"The rise in childhood obesity and illnesses such as the early onset of type 2 diabetes, for example, highlight the dangers of advertising unhealthy food to children."

One of the 268 children between eight and 15 surveyed for the report said: "People get too obsessed with fashion because if they are not wearing something fashionable then people start to tease you but all the fashionable clothes are expensive."

The NUT is calling for the Government to step in if advertisers do not curb their targeting of children. It is calling for a ban on junk food adverts before the 9pm watershed and says it is "alarmed" at the targeting of schools by businesses wishing to market their products.

There are concerns at the level of alcohol advertising when children are likely to be watching television.

The Government's own research found that British teenagers consumed "extremely high" quantities of alcohol compared to those in other countries.

A ministerial group is to examine the links between advertising and under-age drinking.