Are your children stuck in a "materialistic trap"? Your thoughts on Unicef's report about British children and family time, please!

(293 Posts)
HelenMumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 14-Sep-11 11:53:35

Hello.

We wanted to let you know (if you haven't seen it already) that Unicef have just published a report in which they said that British children are caught in a "materialistic trap".

British children, they say, aren't able to spend enough time with their families (because British parents work such long hours) and their parents, feeling the pressure, "buy them off with branded goods".

"Consumer culture in the UK contrasts starkly with Sweden and Spain," say Unicef in their report, "where family time is prioritised, children and families are under less pressure to own material goods and children have greater access to activities out of the home."

What's your reaction to this? Do you agree with Unicef - or not?

And, if you agree, what could we all do about it?

sherbetpips Wed 14-Sep-11 12:16:46

parents are not just busy at work, as a result of that they are also busy at home. houses to be cleaned, DIY, etc all gets in the way of parenting. Yes I have to admit to buying off my son with gifts to distract him when I am busy but we also spend a lot of time actively playing with him. I cant recall my parents ever playing with me and my mum often chastises me when I say I feel guilty for not spending enough time actively getting down and playing with him as we invest far more time in our one child than she could ever have hoped to with four. Are we supposed to be our childrens playmates?

Rebecca41 Wed 14-Sep-11 12:23:06

Interesting.

There's certainly lots of pressure on us to buy various gadgets. My 6 year old son is the only child in his year without a DS, Xbox or Wii. I feel guilty about it but I have an outdated view that I had a happy childhood without any of these things, so why shouldn't he! But I still feel like I'm depriving him, especially when he comes home from friend's houses moaning that we don't have this and that and so on. But we do go on LOADS of day trips to interesting places, in my defence!

I hate the peer pressure for expensive products, it drives me mad. I'm not sure such a trend can be reversed though.

Crumblemum Wed 14-Sep-11 12:26:04

Gawd why is the report so depressing. Maybe I'm blissfully ignorant with younger kids, but I work, I rush, sometimes I don't get down and play on the floor with my kids as often as I apparently should, but funnily enough as a family I think we survive and even have fun!

30 years ago women were wringing washing through a mangle they weren't building towers out of lego. Life is tough, sometimes having a family is tough, employers being nice and govt. not cutting support is great, but I'm not going to beat myself up (again)

Crumblemum Wed 14-Sep-11 12:27:26

Maybe 30 years ago it was rubbish tv and that silly electronic spelling game, but they were still what we did, when our parents were busy.

azazello Wed 14-Sep-11 12:28:47

I would find it more interesting if according to this they had interviewed more than 250 people in total across Spain, Sweden and the UK.

Can anyone link to the actual report where it confirms the numbers taking part and how they were selected to give a balanced approach?

On the assumption that it has all been investigated properly and isn't just a bit of a PR stunt, it sort of comes back to the obvious - house prices in this country are way too high. It is common to find both parents having to work to pay the mortgage or the rent and also to have long and painful commutes because they cannot afford to live closer to work. This has knock on effects on the out-of school activities children can do (who gets them there?) and feeling guilty so making up for it with stuff. The political will seems to be to protect house prices above all else though so don't expect things to change any time soon.

WideWebWitch Wed 14-Sep-11 12:30:58

Hmm, this seems to translate as

'poorer people want shiny things'
'in Spain where women SAH it's much better'
'government cuts are biting' (no shit Sherlock)
'families should help out more as they do in Spain' (Big Society hey? hmm)

Kate Mulley, head of policy development and research at the charity Action for Children, said..."The government needs to stop just hearing young people and actually listen to them."

Er, what on earth does that mean? :Doublespeak: - I don't think the government is doing either really!

Children have always wanted 'things' - TV advertising encourages this, of course it does. But it's up to parents to say no as appropriate.

And yes, banning ads aimed at under 12s is a good idea, as is the minimum wage. We already have the latter though.

I agree that spending cuts are hitting people hard but really, the rest of that article seems a bit meaningless to me. It's blindingly obvious that children need time with their parents and value it. And that if you allow advertising at all, people will want to buy the things that are advertised (which is why companies do it).

WideWebWitch Wed 14-Sep-11 12:32:19

They only interviewed 250 people? :rolls about on the floor laughing:

Ha ha ha! Blimey, did they get paid for that then? I could probably find 250 people who think Vampires are real.

NormaSnorks Wed 14-Sep-11 12:32:55

I don't think my parents played with us either, but I do think there is some truth in the Unicef stuff too.

Maybe because we won't let them go outside to play so much on their own - we buy them stuff to keep them busy indoors.

DS1 started senior school this month. He went to an after school club where he met some 2nd and 3rd year boys. Apparently one of the first questions he was asked was "what have you got - an X-box or a Playstation?" He has neither, and although he was slightly bemused by this particular interchange, I know this is going to become a more regular issue.... sad

UptoapointLordCopper Wed 14-Sep-11 12:34:43

I am with Crumble. I don't play with the kids all the time and I don't buy them things the time. So sue me.

And if they interviewed 250 people only and came to this conclusion I will regard this as another exercise to pile guilt upon parents because they have nothing better to do.

WideWebWitch Wed 14-Sep-11 12:36:29

And no, my children aren't 'stuck in a materialistic trap'

They have everything they need (joke).

SinicalSal Wed 14-Sep-11 12:37:11

one thing that spings to mind (without reading the report) are the threads on here celebrating the Mediteranean customs of children up late at restaurants. That's 2/3 hours extra family time that BedTime Britain doesn't get.

Staunch supporter of bedtime, btw.

limitedperiodonly Wed 14-Sep-11 12:37:20

You mean vampires aren't real wickedwaterwitch? You'll be telling me next that we aren't all in this together.

WideWebWitch Wed 14-Sep-11 12:38:42

We aren't in it all together btw. smile

anniemac Wed 14-Sep-11 12:41:37

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

WideWebWitch Wed 14-Sep-11 12:43:27

I think we were all sold a pup wrt 'quality time' tbh.

It was invented to make working parents feel better about only seeing their children for 2 minutes a day (or not at all).

WideWebWitch Wed 14-Sep-11 12:43:56

And I've done plenty of being a very ft woth btw so am not criticising working parents with that comment.

anniemac Wed 14-Sep-11 12:45:30

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

anniemac Wed 14-Sep-11 12:46:37

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

notlettingthefearshow Wed 14-Sep-11 12:48:28

Does the report only compare British children to Swedish and Spanish? It seems like a small-scale study so I'm not sure how much you can draw from it.

Children here do seem to have a lot of possessions, and I think this is partly because these things are relatively cheap here (in comparison to cost of living). Housing and childcare, on the other hand, is very pricey, and that is what the bulk of parents' money goes on. Sweden has a better social system, I believe, with cheaper childcare, and Spain has a different culture and better climate which means families enjoy more time outdoors, therefore not needing so much indoor entertainment.

I think the report is pretty accurate from my observation. Although I agree that this report doesn't seem to have had a very large sample.

Quality time is a load of crap. It can lead to some pretty brattish children if they're overindulged or the attention is piled on when the parents are there. It also implied that SAHP or WOHP don't give 'quality' time too.

Coming at it as a vagabond immigrant outsider, I certainly see it. There just seems to be a lot more emotional involvement in buying and giving stuff here in the UK in general than in other places that I've lived -- and a lot more in the media on buying the perfect present(s) for so-and-so around every single occasion that could possibly be gift giving. Even the news seems to be filled with buying tips. Same with holidays, actually, there seems to be a lot of importance placed - at least by the media - that makes it all seem very emotionally involved and uber-important to get right.

Even my British husband has it, he's always thinking of picking up things the kids will like. For him, he says it's as he grew up with nowt and now has the means to do things for them that he never did - but I can't help thinking that if the message that kids need object to be happy or prevent bullying, he wouldn't do it so much.

azazello Wed 14-Sep-11 12:52:01

The more I think about it, the more pissed off I am with this report.

Children are unhappy because parents spend too much time working. Whose bloody fault is that. Do most people want to spend more than 7 or so hours a day at work? really? do most people want to spend a further hour or two a day commuting and only seeing their children at bedtime -if that?

But great. Pass the buck for years of poor government policy and ridiculous employer needs for presenteeism and make it parents fault for buying stuff.

BTW, as far as I'm concerned it is not relevant to me at the moment. My DCs are little, I work part time, we see my parents every day. So no special pleading.

WideWebWitch Wed 14-Sep-11 12:53:28

<LemonDifficult, can I just say how much I love your name? Loved The Thick of It - someone apparently once sent Chris Addison a t towel with Difficult, difficult, lemon difficult embroidered on it!>

azazello - I don't think the aim of the report is to 'blame' parents.

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