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Families under pressure from consumerism

15 March 2013


From Mr Reg Bailey

Sir, - We at the Mothers' Union read with interest the column by Canon Angela Tilby (Comment, 8 March) on the "culture of choice" with which children are now confronted. The article quoted Lord Williams's observations on the commercial pressures that children face, and we would agree: families are, indeed, facing increased pressure to consume, as childhood is today a marketing opportunity of £99 billion in the UK every year.

We believe in giving families - parents and carers, and the children they nurture - the tools and the confidence to manage this commercial influence. The Mothers' Union's campaign to tackle the commercialisation and sexualisation of children, Bye Buy Childhood, is calling on the UK Government and industry to work with parents to create a supportive and family-friendly climate where effective tools and guidance are available to parents to use with their family.

We address these issues in our publication Labelled for Life: Managing the commercial world as a family, and offer practical tips and suggestions on how families can navigate this pressure together. This tool is "a valuable reminder that part of our responsibility as parents and carers is to help our children learn to navigate the pressures of the modern world, and that developing a critical response to commercial pressures will help give our children the freedom they need to grow" (Lord Williams).

In my review for the UK Government, Letting Children Be Children, I worked closely with the four main UK internet service- providers (ISPs) to make enabling family-friendly parental controls an active choice when setting up a new PC or laptop. I found a consistent desire across the industry to work to ensure that parents are able to protect their children online.

Phone companies, too, are working to ensure that parents understand the risks and advantages the digital world offers children, and how parents can best educate their children about online safety.

The Mothers' Union believes most strongly that developing resilience and confidence with our families, by enabling age-appropriate safeguarding and building parental confidence to talk to their child about the issues that they consider online risks, will best equip children to manage an ever-changing environment.

Chief Executive
Mothers' Union
Mary Sumner House
24 Tufton Street, London SW1P 3RB

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