Guest blog: Time for a total ban on ads targeting young children

(7 Posts)
JessMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 11-Apr-13 11:07:27

Leave Our Kids Alone is calling for a ban on all advertising aimed at under 11s, saying that advertisers should instead target parents (who, after all, hold the purse strings). In today's guest blog, Jonathan Kent explains the campaign.

"Advertising works. For all the sham-protestations from ad executives that all it does is influence our choice of brand, not what we buy - advertising works.

Of course it does. Some of our best minds work in advertising. Remember 'naughty but nice', the slogan to make you eat cream buns? That was Salman Rushdie that was. Or that classic 70s Hovis ad with the bicycle, cobbled streets and New World Symphony? Ridley Scott. And given its worldwide reputation it's hardly surprising that the UK's advertising industry rakes in around £12 billion a year. But what I don't quite understand is how we've arrived at a situation where an industry that has elevated the manipulation of adult emotions and wants to an art form has been turned loose on children not yet old enough to read.

Think about it! Almost everyone that comes into contact with our children these days has to be vetted; teachers, childminders, medics, even people like children's authors who just drop into schools for the occasional reading. Most of them are people who have our children's best interests at heart.

But while advertisers and marketers don't have physical access to our children they do have pretty much unfettered access to their young minds. The advertisers aren't vetted, they don't answer to us, or our children, they answer to their shareholders and it's those shareholders' interests that they serve and theirs alone.

Any parent knows what effect TV ads can have on children of five and six. They see, they want, they pester. Rather than target us, the parents, advertising companies recruit our children to their cause. And we've come to accept all this as OK.

But it's not OK. Part of our job as parents, part of what our society aspires to do, is to shield young children from the worst of the adult world. We use the time when they're young to teach them how to deal with that world before they have to face it. That includes learning how to value things, handle money, defer gratification and read between the lines of what grown ups are saying. We get lectured from on high about exercising this parental responsibility but at the same time we are routinely subverted.

If it was just a matter of defending our wallets against this tiny fifth column I wouldn't be quite so worried. But there's growing evidence that manipulating children in this way at such an early age is linked to depression, low self esteem and a range of other mental health issues. What's more it appears that the less happy a child is to start with the more susceptible they are to marketing suggestions that acquiring 'stuff' will make them happy.

Rather than turning out a generation of young people who value themselves for their own talents, for what they're to offer others, to contribute to our society, we're seeing our children groomed to become little consumers.

So we've founded Leave Our Kids Alone, to campaign for a complete ban on advertising aimed at children of primary school age or younger. The campaign is supported by dozens of psychologists, child development experts, educationalists and others. We don't want advertisers to stop advertising things that might be enjoyed by children. We just think they should target us, the parents, the people who pay for the stuff and try to persuade us. If you have to brainwash my child ten my guess is that your stuff isn't very good to begin with; so raise your game.

I don't doubt there will be plenty of objections; free speech, damage to commercial interests, technical difficulties and so on. Most of them hold little water. But one that is worth considering is the thought that these days when marketing is so varied and all pervasive, and advertising a smaller and smaller part of it, an ad ban will have a limited impact.

An ad ban isn't a panacea. But it is a start. We can fight our battles one at a time. What we do need to do is think hard about giving our children the space to discover who they are for themselves before they're seized upon by people who want cookie cutter little shoppers. Our children have the potential to be so much more than that. It's time to ban all advertising targeting the under 11s. Mumsnetters, join us!

Leave Our Kids Alone has launched a petition on Find the campaign on Facebook and on Twitter @LeaveRKidsAlone"

What do you think - should advertisers be banned from targeting children of primary school age or younger and be made to target parents instead? Would you support a campaign calling for such a ban?

OP’s posts: |
superkat Thu 11-Apr-13 11:23:25

Agreed, signed.

droid400004 Fri 12-Apr-13 08:21:22

ditto! hate kids adverts, the aimed at girls are excruciating!

overmydeadbody Fri 12-Apr-13 15:45:14

Best way to get round this is to not have a tv in the house, and protect our youn children from watching tv.

With all the good DVDs out there, and good programmes for children available online to watch, I don't think there is any need for children to be watching channels on tv full of adverts.

A ban would be great. In fact, a ban on all tv adverts (and radio ones) as they re all awful, would have my support.

It is the reason I hate TV so much and will not have one in my house. Not just beacaue of adverts for childrne ,but all of those aimed at adults too.

Damselion Sat 13-Apr-13 12:10:11

Signed, great campaign guys x

picnic4 Wed 17-Apr-13 10:35:37

Signed too. There was a great piece in the Guardian yesterday by George Monbiot about this:
If those dreadful sparkly magazines aimed at girls stop being advertiser funded that would be a great thing too. To make this really valid the definition of advertising has to be wide; to include competitions, point of sale, as well as TV/Radio/Press ( ie through the line)

johnsresearch Thu 18-Apr-13 13:00:18

I would have agreed with this if it wasn't for an incident I had last Christmas. We don't have a TV in our house and haven't for about 7 years (my eldest son's just under 5 so he's never experienced a TV in our house). Anyway I took my son round to visit Granny and Grampa and they popped on some kids TV for him, normally they put on CBeebies but he wanted something different so they put on one of the commercial station (think it was Tiny Pop). In the course of two shows he asked for absolutely everything advertised and continued to ask when we got home from our visit. I couldn't figure out what had set off this frenzy until it struck me that he has no tolerance for advertising; he's gained zero defences because we've shielded him from them. So what happens when he gets older and starts seeing more advertising, what kind of immunity will he have as an adult? It's a weird argument in favour advertising, I know, but since then we've let him watch more commercial TV stations when he's visiting his grandparents and I only get asked for stuff every now and then. His ability to ignore advertising seems to be improving with exposure, hopefully this will translate to him being a more discerning adult when the time comes.

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