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Parents fear exploitation, finds Mothers' Union campaign

20 March 2015


MORE parents than ever before are concerned about the impact that the media are having upon their children, fearing that their childhood has been commercialised and sexualised, a survey for the Mothers' Union (MU) Bye Buy Childhood campaign has found.

The survey of parents by ComRes found that 80 per cent believed that video games with violent and sexual themes could be accessed too easily by children, and that children were acting older than their age, and being pressured into buying things, because of advertising, and the media.

The latest figures show that parents are more concerned now about the impact that advertising and media are having on their children than they were in 2010, and are particularly concerned about the influence of social media.

More than one third of parents felt that they had no control over their children's use of social-networking sites, many of which are accessed on the children's own mobile phones.

The head of faith and policy at the Mothers' Union, and author of the latest report in the campaign, Lucinda Hasell, said: "The subject of the commercialisation of children has received a lot of welcome attention in the last few years, but our research shows that parents are still concerned about this issue, and only half of those we spoke to felt equipped to manage the influence of advertising and the commercial world on their family. Further steps need to be taken to ensure that children are not exposed to inappropriate advertising and marketing, and that parents are empowered to manage the impact of the commercial world."

The MU's Bye Buy Childhood campaign was launched in 2010, and the charity's chief executive, Reg Bailey, was invited by the Government to carry out an independent review of the issue. His report's recommendations have been largely implemented by the Government.

The MU's campaign against the commercialisation of childhood will continue, thanks in part to the latest survey, which was carried out in 2013. The results were initially a "surprise", the MU said; it had expected that the changes adopted as a result of the Bailey review had improved the situation. They believe that the rise in concern mirrors a rise in awareness of the issue among parents.

The Bishop of Truro, the Rt Revd Tim Thornton, who chairs the Children's Society, said: "I am concerned to read this . . . powerful report, and commend the Mothers' Union on their work. . . I know how important it is to strive to enable children to be children. The research demonstrates how pervasive commercialisation is in our world. I hope we all take this seriously and consider how we can increase our own resistance to 'pester power'."

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