Advertising Association study argues commercial world enhances children's wellbeing

Peta Buscombe
Peta Buscombe

LONDON - The commercial world has not harmed children's wellbeing and instead can be a positive influence, according to a new report by the Advertising Association.

The study, ‘Children's wellbeing in a commercial world', 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 15 years. In contrast it argues that aspects of the commercial world enhance the wellbeing of children.

The report, produced for the panel of academics chosen by the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF), contains an analysis of trend data over a 15-year period. Several commercially-related factors were regarded as powerful enablers of wellbeing, such as internet and mobile phones as well as TV, newspapers and magazines, MP3s, computer games and advertising.

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

Baroness Peta Buscombe, chief executive of the Advertising Association, said the research showed that wellbeing of children and young people was ‘robust and certainly not in decline'.

She said: ‘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,' she added.

Key findings are:

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 preferring branded clothes with logos.

Positive trends in the role of the family and parental relations.

Increased self-esteem (‘there are high and growing numbers agreeing that ‘I am happy about the way I look')


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