In my view: Save children from the market

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Charter for Childhood is a two-pronged attack on the commercialisation of childhood, calling for restrictions on advertising to children and better provision for outdoor play.

The child-oriented market in the UK is worth £30 billion and has laid roots in every aspect of children's lives, affecting how they learn, eat and play.

On average, a child will not understand that they are being sold to until they are eight years old. Nevertheless, children are being targeted at early ages to buy in to the idea of brands and a lifetime of consumerism.

From the earliest years, advertisements and marketing messages are shaping the way children see themselves and impacting on their values, aspirations and health.

For the poorest children who have no hope of accessing the lifestyles they see on ads, commercialisation contributes to low-self esteem and depression. Across the social spectrum, advertising of unhealthy food contributes to obesity and related health problems. Exploitation of gender stereotypes has led to the sexualisation of girls at ever earlier ages.

There is also a steady decline in the opportunity for outdoor play. Public spaces have become increasingly dominated by commerce and traffic, and children's leisure time has become fair game for market forces promoting sedentary, screen-based pursuits.

The Charter for Childhood is a call to arms for all concerned people - the preamble reads, 'We must, both directly and through our elected government, support children, parents, carers and teachers to withstand the pressures of commercialisation and restore children's right to free play within the public realm.'

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