In a letter sent to a national newspaper, the lobby group of more than 50 experts, which includes academics, authors, MPs and charity leaders, criticises the advertising industry for ‘turning techniques designed to manipulate adult emotions and desires on to children as young as two.’
They claim that selling to children rather than their parents by making heavy use of ‘pester power’ puts pressure on children, and warn there is a danger that young people will define themselves more by what they buy than what they can contribute to society.
The letter goes on to say, ‘A civilised society should require advertisers to sell to parents, not to children. When children are learning about the cost of material things, and about managing small quantities of money, they should be free to do so without the pressures put on them by advertising.
‘Children should be free to channel their energies into forming friendships, discovering their talents and unleashing their imaginations, things that cost little but whose value is immeasurable.’
The letter, signed by Dr Richard House, senior lecturer in early childhood studies at the University of Winchester, Sue Palmer, author of Toxic Childhood, and early years advisor Maria Robinson, calls for the government to step in and follow Sweden, Quebec and Greece in banning adverts aimed at young children. Other well-known signatories include Sir Tim Brighouse, Oliver James, George Monbiot and Susie Orbach.
Dr Richard House said, 'This letter is about giving a strong cultural signal, and about shifting the Zeitgeist – being part of a wider cultural struggle for the protection of young impressionable children from the worst excesses of a rampantly materialistic society.
'A colleague of mine just read the letter to his six-year-old son, who completely agreed with it, saying "Sometimes when I see an advert, I want you to buy the thing, and then you get annoyed and then I think it wasn't my fault, it was the advertisements that caused it. So they shouldn't have put it on in the first place." These were his exact words – and I think there’s little more to be said to make the case.'