News: Advisory group gathers children's views on commercialisation
17 February 2011
Our Children and Young People's Advisory Group, 'Amplify', has launched a survey to find out young people's views and experiences of commercialisation.
On 23 February, Amplify will present the interim findings from the survey to the Children's Commissioner Maggie Atkinson and Reg Bailey, who is heading up the independent review commissioned by the Government to examine commercialisation of children and young people. The full report will be published by April.
David, 15, who had significant input into the development of the questions, gives his perspective on commercialisation, and describes the process of creating the survey.
Gathering children's experiences of advertising and marketing
Our society is flooded with marketing techniques. Irrespective of what we do in our lives, companies have found ways to integrate into our routines methods of publicising their products and convincing us we need them.
Wherever we turn, we are faced with a blend of astute promotion strategies: everything from sponsorship of reality shows, product placements in soap operas and celebrities sporting the latest designer trend, to digital signage by the side of football pitches, double page spreads in glossy magazines and banners plastered in Tube stations.
Exposure to advertising in its many, various forms is something we now all take for granted, but it's important we consider the impact that commercialisation is having on the way we behave and how we spend our money.
The Government has pledged to take action to protect children and young people from advertising and marketing that may be damaging, and many organisations and adults have attempted to speculate as to what influence marketing is having on young people. We want to know what children and young people themselves think about it.
As a young person myself, I understand what pressures marketing can lead to. There is growing concern that advertising and commercialisation can have a number of negative effects on young people, or alter their thinking.
As the advisory group for the Children's Commissioner, these were just some of the impacts we thought advertising could have on us:
- Peer pressure - the desire to appear fashionable or to conform - this could be the result of a particular item becoming widely popular.
- The influence of and admiration for celebrities has the capacity to affect what young people spend money on.
The constant advertising of certain products could affect health or could force people into growing up too quickly.
Developing the survey
We wanted to know what other young people around us had to say about the impact of advertising on their lives. We used our personal experience and our understanding as young people to discuss how we believe marketing techniques influence our behaviour and purchases. We conversed about different forms of advertising, and factors in our society which compel us to do or buy certain things.
We worked with a consultation expert to devise a questionnaire which could help us to identify exactly what young people think on the issue. The group worked to refine our questions and phrase them in such a way that would take all points into consideration and allow young people responding to the survey to confidently tell the Children's Commissioner exactly what they thought.
Gathering young people's views
This survey was been circulated both on paper and around the web. 430[a1] young people all across the country completed the questionnaire, ensuring that their opinions are heard by those who have the capacity to protect them and make change on their behalf. We hope, through this survey, to gain a better understanding of the impact of commercialisation and how this links with age, employment and education, pocket money and allowances, common purchases, affluence and location.
The results of our questionnaire will be submitted to the group commissioned to write a report for the UK Government about commercialisation so they can fulfil their pledge to guard young people from the negative effects of marketing.
It is incredibly exciting that children and young people all over England are able to participate in consultation at such a high level.
At the core of our work is the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) to which the UK is a signatory.
The UNCRC articles directly relevant to the advisory group's work on the commercialisation of childhood are:
- Article 3 - (best interests of the child) - the best interests of the child must be a top priority in all actions concerning children.
- Article 12 - (respect for the views of the child) - every child has a right to say what they think in all matters affecting them, and to have their views taken seriously.
- Article 17 - (access to information from mass media) - every child has the right to reliable information from the mass media. Television, radio, newspapers and other media should provide information that children can understand. Governments must help protect children from materials that could harm them.
You can view a summary of the UNCRC articles here, provided by UNICEF.
For more information
To find out more about our advisory group, contact Tom Green, who supports the children and young people.