Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Kids, Materialism and Well-Being

Yesterday, the UK Children's Society released the most recent installment of their 6-part review of the current state of childhood in the UK, The Good Childhood Inquiry. Focusing on Lifestyle, the report examines various issues relating to "lifestyle," such as consumerism and materialism. Previous installments have examined Friends (which I posted about last summer), Family, and Learning. As reported by AFP (as well as by the BBC News, children "feel under pressure to own the latest designer clothes and computer games," while adults believe that the commercialisation of childhood is damaging the kids' well-being. From the AFP coverage:
Professor of child psychology Philip Graham -- who is leading the inquiry's lifestyle theme -- believes that commercial pressures may have "worrying psychological effects" on children.

"One factor that may be leading to rising mental health problems is the increasing degree to which children and young people are preoccupied with possessions; the latest in fashionable clothes and electronic equipment.

"Evidence both from the United States and from the UK suggests that those most influenced by commercial pressures also show higher rates of mental health problems," he said.

Commenting on the results of the poll, chief executive of the Childrens Society Bob Reitemeier said: "As adults we have to take responsibility for the current level of marketing to children. To accuse children of being materialistic in such a culture is a cop out.

"Unless we question our own behaviour as a society we risk creating a generation who are left unfulfilled through chasing unattainable lifestyles."

Key findings from the report itself include:

* That approx. 60% of adults aged 16 years and over agree with the statement:"children and young people’s self esteem is damaged by the negative portrayal of their age group in the media" (25% disagreed)

* Approx. 90% agree that: "children nowadays are more materialistic than past generations."

* Very few adults (only 3%) think that children should not spend any time at all ion computers or watching television. The majority think that between 1-3 hours a day is an appropraite amount of time for kids to spend with the media (and as the report specifies, "Younger respondents (aged 16-17) were more liberal, and were more likely to think longer hours were acceptable").

* Approx. 80% disagree with the statement that: "children aged 12 should be free to spend their money on whatever they want." (Although again, younger respondent were more inclined to agree).

* Approx. 70% agree that: "violent video games make children more aggressive" (only abour 20% disagree).

* An "overwhelming majority" of around 90% agree that "advertising to children at Christmas put pressure on parents to spend more than they can afford." (Interestingly, parents were less inclined to agree with this statement).

For more info, you can also read an article written by Bob Reitemeier, Chief Executive of The Children’s Society, in today's Telegraph, or check out the full report here. The inquiry will continue over the coming year, examining the two remaining themes of Health and Values. A full report is expected sometime in 2009.

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