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IPA welcomes AA report that confirms myth of toxic childhood

The IPA has welcomed the findings of the Advertising Association Report 'Children’s wellbeing in a commercial world', published today (26th January), which finds no evidence of a decline in children’s overall wellbeing, nor that the net impact of the commercial world on wellbeing has been negative over the past fifteen years. Indeed it finds plenty of evidence that aspects of the commercial world enhance the wellbeing of children.

26/01/2009

The IPA has welcomed the findings of the Advertising Association Report Children’s wellbeing in a commercial world, published today (26th January), which finds no evidence of a decline in children’s overall wellbeing, nor that the net impact of the commercial world on wellbeing has been negative over the past fifteen years. Indeed it finds plenty of evidence that aspects of the commercial world enhance the wellbeing of children.


The report, produced for the panel of academics appointed by the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) to examine evidence on the impact of the commercial world on children’s wellbeing, contains an analysis of 15-year trend data and shows:


• Children’s fundamental values have remained constant, or in some cases strengthened. (ie what they regard as the really important things in life such as friendship, love, helping others and leading a healthy life).
• Indications of increased media literacy.
• A decline in the medium term of being ‘slaves to fashion’ and materialism (Over the last ten years there has been a decline in numbers who ‘like keeping up with the latest fashions’, who ‘prefer to buy things friends would approve’ and ‘like branded clothing with logos’)
• Positive trends in the role of the family and parental relations (A high propor-tion ‘get on with their parents’ and there is a steady increase in ‘enjoying spending time with the family’).
• Increased self-esteem (‘there are high and growing numbers agreeing that ‘I am happy about the way I look’).


Further, a separate and specially commissioned pilot study among 11-15s shows that whilst this group fully embraces the commercial world, they do not view their wellbeing primarily through the lens of materialism.


The results show that commercially-related factors are not in themselves highly rated as important sources of wellbeing.  The top six ‘wellbeing benefits’ were:

1) ‘Just having fun’ 2) ‘Keeping in touch with my friends’ 3) ‘Relaxation and Entertainment’ 4) ‘Keep me safe and out of harm’ 5) ‘Being independent and following my own interests’ 6) ‘Learning new things, developing new interests’.


Several commercially-related factors were however regarded as powerful enablers of wellbeing, helping to deliver these important benefits. Internet and mobile phones feature strongly in these terms but TV, newspapers and magazines, MP3s, computer games and advertising also emerge as significant wellbeing enablers.


Said Baroness Peta Buscombe, Chief Executive of the Advertising Association, “This valuable new research shows that overall wellbeing of children and young people is robust and certainly not in decline despite the changes in the context for childhood in recent years. The picture that emerges is that aspects of the commercial world are important net promoters of children’s wellbeing, helping to promote more positive thinking and counterbalancing negative pressures in children’s lives.


It is a timely and vital contribution to the public debate about the impact of the commercial world on children’s wellbeing and explodes the myths of emotive sloganeering such as ‘toxic childhood’ and ‘commercialisation of childhood’. Indeed it shows that business can and is a force for good as an enabler of children’s wellbeing.”


Says IPA Legal Director Marina Palomba, “While we welcome these findings, they are not unsurprising. The notion that everything was somehow rosier in the past in an alleged 'less commercialised', commodity driven world, is clearly naive and largely unfounded.


What is important is that proportionate and sensible measures are taken and constantly reviewed to protect children and other vulnerable groups from forms of exploitation. This already occurs. In the marketing arena new revised codes of advertising practice for example have been subject of a lengthy review taking over a year to complete; plans to extend regulation of commercial messages to the internet area also well advanced, and new laws introduced last year extend consumer protections generally. Furthermore, Media Smart school packs, which teach children to think critically about advertising in the context of their daily lives, have been requested by nearly 10,000 primary schools.


However, we all have a part to play and parental responsibility is essential in a world in which the media is so prevalent. While new forms of communication have genuine positive implications for young people, easy access also brings risks which can only be tackled by a partnership between government, regulators, new technology and parents.”


For further information and to download the report, please visit the Advertising Association website at: http://www.adassoc.org.uk/

Last updated 27/01/2009


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