Wednesday, 14 September 2011

UNICEF join the New Puritans and call for advertising bans...


Research by Ipsos MORI for UNICEF UK found that children in the UK feel “trapped” in a materialistic culture and do not spend enough time with their families.
Parents are making up for the time they lose out on together as a family by buying their children gadgets and branded clothes due to the pressure from society - and advertising - to own material goods, the research claims.

I really don’t know where to begin with this – yet again we’re being told, this time through the ever flexible vehicle of opinion research, that advertising and marketing are trapping us, dragging us ever deeper into the mire of the consumerist world.

This comes from what UNICEF dub their “child well-being report” and, let’s be very clear about the research. After all we know Ipsos MORI as the providers of opinion polls for newspapers, so the research must be sound. However, the conclusion about children feeling trapped comes from:

A total of seven schools were recruited to take part in this research from each country (21 schools in total), with two discussion groups, (or one discussion group and two in-depth interviews) in each school, making a total of 36 groups and 12 in-depth interviews. Across the seven schools we also included one group of children with behavioural difficulties and one group of children with special educational needs, as well as 2 groups where the majority of pupils were from ethnic minority backgrounds to ensure the full range of children were represented as part of this research.

This is not a scientific study at all but a series of qualitative assessments of children’s attitudes and opinions. All conducted within the framework of something called the “child rights social ecology perspective” – which the authors of the report describe as follows:

Our methodology is underpinned by Ecological Systems Theory (e.g. Bronfenbrenner,1979; Comer et al., 2004) which sees child development as part of a broader social, cultural, economic and political set of systems. Bronfenbrenner suggests research to inform policy should take place within natural settings and that theory finds greater practical application when contextually relevant. He famously stated that “basic science needs public policy even more than public policy needs basic science".

So not a great deal of science – or even any substantial evidence-gathering – has gone to producing this report, which I find quite appalling. Yet on the basis of this pseudo-science – indeed research that celebrates an anti-scientific approach – UNICEF feel able to call for the following:

1.       encourage businesses to pay a living wage, so parents don't have to take on several jobs to make a living, which affects the amount of time they can spend with their children
2.       insist local authorities assess the impact of public spending cuts on children so that funding is protected for play facilities and free leisure activities
3.       follow Sweden's example and stop advertisements being shown before, during or after programmes aimed at under-12s.

Yet again government is expected to intervene, to control and to ban so as to make up for the supposed failings of parents. And yet again we are expected to believe that, between the scourge of advertising and the pester power of children, parents have no hope, no chance of resistance.

Not only is this nonsense, it is insulting to ordinary parents trying their best to bring up their children well and completely misunderstands the role and purpose of brands. But most of all the calls for action are wrong. I mean wrong as in illiberal and immoral – advertising is speech, commercial organisations have every right to promote their products and, if their products are used by children, to promote those products to children. It is for parents to say “no”, not for the government to remove rights to free speech just to make it so those parents do have to exercise that simple act of control.


1 comment:

Dick Puddlecote said...

Nicely put. I tweeted this story the other day as it really is quite scary. It appears that a progressive agenda is deeply-ingrained into supra-national global bodies now. Against such a tide of indoctrination, what chance has common sense of ever resurfacing? Anywhere.