by Ed Mayo
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by Ed Mayo, Chief Executive, National Consumer Council
I benefited from comments, suggestions and input from a wide range of people. My
thanks to Al Aynsley-Green, Sue Bloomfield, Madeleine Bunting, Jo Butcher, Philip
Cullum, Sue Dibb, Gill Frances, Jeff French, Diane Gaston, Barbara Hearn, Jo Hillier,
Alison Hopkins, Sheena Horgan, Deirdre Hutton, Jill Johnstone, John Kemmis,
Susanne Lace, Jane Landon, Paul Lincoln, Nic Marks, Thomas Mayo, Frankie Mayo,
Molly Mayo, Mary McLeod, Dawn Muspratt, Agnes Nairn, Pip O’Byrne, Courtney
Plank, Chris Pole, Juliet Schor, Graeme Trayner, Frank Trentmann and Carolyne
Willow. Thanks too to the children that took part in the mini-group discussions in
Summary and recommendations 2
1. A short history of children and shopping 5
2. Shopping generation: what young people told us 9
3. Children’s agenda on consumer life 34
4. How can parents help? 36
5. Putting the children’s agenda into action 38
Appendix: methodology 45
shopping generation N
Summary and recommendations
A new generation of young people aged 10 to 19 years-old are now avid shoppers.
They have more pocket money, more influence over family spending and more sway
over social trends. And yet, they are the least happy generation of the post-war era.
They are relentlessly targeted by companies and advertisers, operating on occasion
with the ethics of the playground bully. Their vulnerabilities are sold back to them
through magazines and marketing. They feel that providers, from mobile phone
companies to newsagents, rip them off - that they live in a hostile commercial world,
playing to their insecurities.
These are not the claims of any pressure group or single interest campaign, but what
young people themselves have told us. Young Britons represent a £30 billion
commercial market, but it is clear that all is not well.
The National Consumer Council’s (NCC) survey of children as young consumers,
drawing on quantitative and qualitative research, suggests that:
• A new shopping generation has emerged. Across today’s children, the vast
majority (80 per cent) enjoy shopping and going to the shops and care a lot
about their games and other possessions (71 per cent).
• Perhaps surprisingly, British children are more consumer-oriented that their
American counterparts. Children in Britain are more brand aware and less
satisfied than US children with what they have to spend.
• Even the youngest in our survey are already keen consumers. Almost eight in
ten (78 per cent) 10-12 year olds already say they enjoy shopping. More than
two in three like collecting the latest things that others are collecting. Nearly
half of 10-12 year olds think that the brand is important when they buy and
the average ten year old has internalised 300 to 400 brands – perhaps twenty
times the number of birds in the wild that they could name.
• Greater London emerges as the most materialist region. Children in the West
Midlands appear to achieve the best balance, open to opportunities as
consumers while remaining more contented.
• Children do experience stress from the scale and extent of commercial
a) Young people feel pressure to have the latest ‘in vogue’ items. Girls in
particular, experience feelings of inadequacy and discomfort as a result
of ‘images of perfection’ promoted by advertising.
b) Advertising, it appears, can make you unhappy. The more consumerist
children were – the ones who were ‘brand aware’, cared about their
possessions and liked collecting – the more likely they were to be
dissatisfied more widely.
c) Advertising makes poverty bite. The children that have the least, in
socio-economic groups C2 and DE, are most interested in consumer
and materialist concerns. This ‘aspiration gap’ is most marked in the
poorest households. Their parents try hard to respond - poorer
children tend to get more pocket money and will get crisps and snacks
in their lunch boxes – but these are the children most likely to be
disappointed when birthdays come round.
• Young people feel they face discrimination and get treated as second-class
customers, compared to adults, by shops and companies. Seven out of ten
children feel they are being ‘ripped off’ by companies (71 per cent). Mobile
phone companies are rated very low for service by young consumers, worse
than doorstep salesmen.
• Young people want more honesty and respect, and tighter curbs and controls
1. Be honest and upfront about products and services.
2. Treat young people with respect and take them seriously.
3. Curb the use of inappropriate advertising aimed at younger people.
4. Put tighter controls on the marketing of products that are bad for young people.
shopping generation P
To implement the children’s agenda, the NCC recommends:
1. action by regulators to triple the level of fines on business mis-selling to children
(Be honest and upfront about products and services);
2. a Children’s Well-Being Index to be published by the Treasury, to track
children’s life satisfaction (Treat young people with respect and take them seriously);
3. new powers for Ofcom to enforce ‘British Board of Film Censors’-style content
labelling to help parents choose between appropriate and inappropriate
entertainment content for children (Curb the use of inappropriate advertising
aimed at younger people);
4. ending the abuses of internet marketing to children, by classifying children’s
personal information as sensitive, requiring parental consent (Put tighter controls
on the marketing of products that are bad for young people).
1. A short history of children and shopping
Children have always had an active involvement in economic and commercial life,
both as workers and consumers. The children of the nineteenth century streets, for
example, come alive in the books of Charles Dickens. Dickens’s children were often
orphans, with no-one to care for them. They stole or picked pockets to buy food and
slept in outhouses or doorways. They did jobs to earn money. They sold lace,
flowers, muffins or matches in the street. They worked as crossing-sweepers, clearing
a way through the mud and horse manure of the main roads to make way for ladies
The worst excesses of nineteenth century life for children were restrained by an Act
passed in 1842, and associated legislation, sponsored by the seventh Earl of
Shaftesbury. Children were freed from a wide variety of commercial abuses, from
working down mines to cleaning up chimneys.
Throughout the twentieth century, children were avid consumers of sweets, comics,
movies and books. And any school playground today still operates as a showcase for
the variety of entrepreneurial practices that children engage in – trading cards and
toys, swapping food from lunchboxes, swapping favours.
The NCC exists to champion the rights of consumers. We have looked at the needs
of children at key points in time, including the needs of children in care, the first UK
Code controlling marketing to children in schools, and, most recently, our work on
children, food and health that helped to shape the Government’s 2004 Public Health
The question that this report addresses is whether, in the very different setting of
today’s fast-paced, highly commercialised world, society can still learn from the
concerns of Charles Dickens and Earl Shaftesbury. It is not enough, perhaps, for
children to be active in economic life. It is time that they are able to shape the terms
on which they participate.
shopping generation R
1760 William Hamley, a Cornishman from Bodmin, arrives in London to open a toy store, Noah’s Ark.
1895 Coca-Cola’s first celebrity spokesperson, Music Hall performer Hilda Clark, appears in advertisements.
1899 Meccano launched.
1928 First talking cartoon, Steamboat Willie, included Mickey Mouse.
1937 Disney licenses Snow White’s image before the film is released, creating demand for Snow White goods.
1946 Muffin the Mule starts, the first great star of British children’s television.
1951 Mr Potato Head is the first toy advertised on television.
1959 Mattel launches Barbie doll, the first teenage fashion doll.
1966 Action Man, the UK version of Palitoy’s GI Joe, is launched.
1977 Star Wars the movie introduces a new level of mass merchandising.
1982 Atari’s Pac-Man hits the shelves.
1995 Gary Lineker makes his first advert for Walkers crisps.
1996 Children’s programming starts in multi-channel homes, with Fox Kids.
1997 Po, Laa-Laa, Tinky Winky and Dipsy (the Teletubbies) appear on BBC.
2001 The first four Harry Potter books notch up sales of 66 million worldwide.
2005 The games console war hots up, with new releases from Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo.
The NCC was recently asked to look at the case of an 8-year-old girl, Ellis Scott, in
Nottingham, who was sent an offer, pre-selected, for a credit card. A voracious credit
market regularly throws up examples like this. A previous case involved a card being
erroneously offered to an Alsatian dog!
The children’s market is real and substantial:
• There are close to eleven million children in the UK under the age of 15 –
5.6 million boys and 5.4 million girls (1).
• One million children aged from 5 to 9 years old now own a phone – double
the number two years ago. The average age for a child to have a first mobile is
now 8 years old (2). Almost 60 per cent of secondary school children and 20
per cent of primary school children own mobile phones (3).
• Eight in ten children (aged 5 to 16) have their own TV and over half have a
video recorder / DVD in their room (4). One in five has access to the
internet in their own room (5).
• Each year children (under 16) spend their own money on: snacks and sweets
(£680m), clothing (£660m), music and CDs (£620m), footwear (£400m),
software (£350m), magazines (£250m) and toiletries (£83m) (6).
• The children’s clothing market is worth £6bn (7). Sales of toys in the UK are
£2 bn (8). If the UK market is comparable with the USA, we can estimate
that children have an average of seventy new toys a year (9).
• In major household purchases, such as for cars, holidays and leisure, children
now have an influence over parents’ decisions (10).
• This adds up to total child-oriented market estimated at £30bn (11).
Children are active consumers. In the field of computer games, children are co-
creators of new games, helping to test pre-release versions in online communities. In
the field of technology, they are often innovation leaders. Over half, for example,
would like to use their mobile phones to make ‘micro-payments’, for bus tickets or
vending machine goods (12).
They are also determined consumers. Pester power is alive and well. If parents say no,
the most frequent tactic used by children is described by researchers as ‘direct action’
shopping generation T
– like losing their temper or crying. Around six out of ten children say they pester
their parents to get what they want and that they get annoyed or slam doors if the
answer is ‘no’ (13).
Companies have been quick to recognise market opportunities. Children’s tastes drive
market trends. Levi Strauss was first to recruit ‘cool’ kids to advise them but it is now
common practice to attract ‘kid engineers’. Brainstorming among young consumers is
supposed to have led Heinz to produce its ‘E-Z squeeze’ bottles.
As a result, children increasingly command the focus and attention of advertisers and
brand strategists. This has helped to inspire a celebratory narrative of the UK’s active,
media-savvy young consumers. But it has also started to generate controversy.
Walkers Crisps’ campaign for Wotsits, for example, has been criticised by MPs on the
grounds that it ‘deliberately sought to undermine parental control over children's
nutrition’. Advertisers estimate that the association with Gary Lineker has been worth
sales of an extra 114m packets of crisps over just two years (14) .
Felicity Lawrence, the campaigning author and journalist, picked up on a submission
by advertising agency Leo Burnett to the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising for
one of its ‘effectiveness awards’ in 2002. It explained how its campaign for Kellogg's
Real Fruit Winders ‘entered the world of kids in a way never done before’, and
managed to ‘not let mum in on the act’. The product is one-third sugars, and has
been awarded a ‘Tooth Rot’ award by the Food Commission (15).
A survey by the National Family and Parenting Institute in 2003 suggested that 84 per
cent of parents now believe that there is too much marketing aimed at children. Even
so, with new techniques on the rise, such as ‘peer-to-peer’ and ‘viral marketing’ which
encourage people to pass marketing messages on to others, and product placement
embedded into video games, even the most informed parents would be shocked to
learn the full extent and sophistication of such marketing targeted at their kids.
Our aim, though, was not to repeat this and other work that has demonstrated and
amplified parental concern about marketing. Our interest was in asking the consumers
– that is, the young people – themselves about their attitudes to shopping and views
on consumer life.
2. Shopping generation: what young
people told us
‘It reminds me of chocolates. When you’ve bought something and you feel proud,
like it releases a happy hormone.’ (14-16 year-old girl, BC1)
The NCC’s research with children ran between October 2004 and April 2005. We
wanted to explore young people’s understanding and views on consumer life.
The first stage was a national survey, across England, Scotland and Wales, of 1,000
young people aged 10 to 19 years-old, run by RSGB. The survey was designed to
probe issues such as their attitude to shopping and brands and how they felt about
their family’s ability to pay for things. In designing the survey, we drew on the
pioneering research of sociologist and author, Juliet Schor, in the USA (16) .
Of course, such an age range covers many differences. The labels and definitions
across this age group are many and varied, so we talk about ‘children’ as a short-hand
only (17). But childhoods differ across not just age, but also social class, geography,
gender, ethnicity and ability/disability.
The second stage was a series of focus groups, designed to explore, in more qualitative
depth, the commercial life of children, how they felt about this and what their agenda
for change might be. The NCC commissioned Opinion Leader Research to run four
mini-group discussions with girls and boys aged 11-16. Those involved also
completed a diary/scrap book to record the times someone tried to sell to them, how
this made them feel and what they did as a result. This added a behavioural
perspective to the research. And they used a disposable camera to record pictures of
when people tried to sell to them.
Like any research of this form, it paints a snapshot in time and is stronger in revealing
the opinions of children than it is their behaviour over time, which might require
observational or ethnographic research.
The results paint a picture of children who see themselves as enthusiastic consumers.
They are engaged by and responsive to marketing. Consumer life matters to them.
shopping generation V
They enjoy shopping and care about their possessions. They also feel pressure to have
the latest ‘in vogue’ items.
They do not think of themselves as naïve, but see methods of selling to young people
as often intrusive and inappropriate. Girls in particular, experience feelings of
inadequacy as a result of ‘images of perfection’ promoted by advertising. Many young
people feel they are being ‘ripped off’ by companies. They feel they get treated very
differently to adults by shops and companies.
The scrapbooks and photos taken by the children in the research highlight the volume
of marketing activity that young people are exposed to on a daily basis. They accepted
this as normal and their response to the commercial world around was characterised
When it came to what they would want to see in relation to marketing and consumer
life, they want more honesty and respect, and tighter curbs and controls.
Even the youngest UK children in the survey are already keen consumers. Of those aged 10-12:
• 84 per cent care a lot about their games and ‘other stuff’;
• 78 per cent like shopping and going to the shops;
• more than two in three like collecting the latest things that others are
• two-third like clothes with popular labels;
• nearly half think the brand is important when they buy.
This age group falls into the category of ‘tweens’, so-called because they are classified
by marketers as falling ‘between’ early childhood and teenage years. Martin
Lindstrom, author of Brandchild, defines ‘tweens’ as those aged 8-14 (18) .
Attachment to brands and labels starts young. The average ten-year-old has
internalised 300 to 400 brands – perhaps twenty times the number of birds in the
wild that they could name (19). Pester power may be at its height among tweens (20).
Brand awareness remains high among all the age-groups, but it seems to peak in the
early teens. An interest in clothes with popular labels is at its most intense in the 13-
15 age range, with three-quarters of children interested (21).
Those who are working full or part-time (i.e. have their own money) are less likely
than those in full-time education (or indeed those who are neither working nor at
school) to feel that other kids have more possessions and to wish their parents earned
more and could afford more or gave them more to spend. Caring a lot about games
‘and stuff’ declines as children get older (from 84 per cent of 10-12 year olds to 54 per
cent of 18-19 year olds).
The latest Halifax ‘pocket money survey’ shows that those aged 7-11 get £6.31 a
week on average, while those aged 12-16 get £9.15 – or nearly 50 per cent more.
Boys get 50 pence more pocket money than girls each week. The average pocket
money across Britain is £7.82 per week, adding up to a collective yearly children’s
spending power of £70m (22).
Older children tend to add to their income through paid work. Older figures from
Wall’s Monitor, which surveys children aged 5-16, showed that in 2001 children over
the age of 14 boosted their earnings from odd jobs to give them an average weekly
income of £12.64, nearly double that of the 11-13 year-olds and nearly three times
that of the 8-10 year olds (23). Two in five children (11-16) do some form of paid
work outside the home, working for an average of just under five hours a week (24).
Of course, young people’s interests and priorities are bound to change as they grow
up. In this context, going out to work appears to increase interest in brands and labels,
but to reduce feelings of envy. Perhaps because they are spending their own money,
they are more sensitive about their consumer rights. Those working full or part time
are the most likely to have felt ripped off.
There were a few major differences between boys and girls in our survey. A slightly
higher proportion of boys than girls wished their parents earned more money (53 per
cent of boys, 46 per cent of girls). Shopping was seen as much more of a ‘girl thing’ –
94 per cent of girls like going shopping against 68 per cent of boys. Boys are more
likely to care a lot about their games and ‘other stuff’ (80 per cent of boys against 61
per cent of girls). So it may be that male interest in shopping manifests itself in
‘collecting’ things, which rates high among younger boys in our survey.
For all that they are less keen on shopping, boys are, if anything, more keen than girls
to get the ‘right’ things when they do buy. Compared with 67 per cent of girls, 73
per cent of boys say they like clothes with popular labels. Fifty-nine per cent of boys
say that the brand name is important to them when they buy something, compared to
46 per cent of girls.
shopping generation NN
This may be down to what boys and girls spend their money on. According to Mintel
research, boys aged 13-14 are the biggest spenders on computer games, sports and
hobbies and this is also the age at which they start to display interest in technology.
Big brand names dominate computer games and sports gear and these, as well as high-
tech toys, tend to be ‘bigger-ticket’ items. At the same age, girls are buying clothing,
which may be branded and expensive, but they are also buying ‘cheaper-ticket’ items
such as toiletries and cosmetics (25). This may also influence their attitudes to the
non-essential nature of a lot of consumption: 83 per cent of girls agree that people
buy things they don’t really need against 74 per cent of boys.
There were clear differences across the regions. Greater London emerges as the most
materialist area. Fifty-six per cent of Greater London children say that they wish their
family could afford to buy them more of what they want. Forty-seven per cent of
children in the North say the same, compared to an average of 41 per cent. Greater
London is the only region in which a majority of children report that they like to
watch adverts – being over twice as likely as children elsewhere to enjoy adverts.
Children in the West Midlands appear to achieve the best balance, open to
opportunities as consumers while remaining more contented. They are the least
envious, and the least likely to wish their family could afford to buy them more. They
are less concerned to collect what others are collecting and the least likely to care
what kind of car the family has. But they are far from anti-consumerist. They are
fashion conscious, being among the keenest on clothes with popular labels and brands.
And they are concerned with their rights as consumers.
East Midlands is the rip-off region of Britain, according to children there. An
astonishing 91 per cent of children believe they have been ripped off when they have
bought something themselves.
Scottish children appear to be among the least interested in brand names, the least
concerned what car their parents drive. But, perhaps because they get the highest
pocket money (£9.23 per week) in the UK (26), they are among the most likely to
say that they enjoy shopping and going to the shops and that they enjoy collecting the
things that others are collecting.
Children in Wales, in contrast, felt the poorest, being most likely to wish that their parents
earned more and that their parents gave them more money. They may have good reason.
Only around one in four children in Wales say they get pocket money (27). Children in
Wales are half as likely as other parts of Britain to enjoy watching adverts.
A similar, overwhelming, proportion of children in both Britain and the USA say that
they enjoy shopping and that they care a lot about their games ‘and other stuff’. Over
two in three children in both countries enjoy collecting things.
However, perhaps surprisingly, British children emerge overall as more consumer-
oriented that their US counterparts. Children in Britain are more brand aware and less
satisfied with what they see as the limited amount of money they have to spend. In
the USA, one in three children say they feel that other kids have more possessions
than they do, compared to one in four in Britain. But US children appear to be more
accepting of this, and less envious, in terms of wishing that their family could do more
to help them to afford more.
British children are significantly more enthusiastic about advertisements than US
children. Some might argue that this means that UK advertising is superior, but a less
partial explanation could be the profusion of advertising channels in the US (28). The
NCC survey suggests that children who do not have extra channels are more likely to
say they like watching adverts – 37 per cent against 27 per cent of those with cable
and satellite TV.
shopping generation NP
Table 1: Consumer involvement in the UK versus US - children aged 10-12 (OV)
Net: Net: Net: Net:
agree disagree agree disagree
I feel that other kids have more stuff than I do 25 56 33 67
I wish my family could afford to buy me more of what I want 47 42 33 67
I wish my parents gave me more money to spend 61 28 47 53
I care a lot about my games and other stuff 84 11 85 15
I like clothes with popular labels 66 22 52 48
When I buy something the brand name is important to me 46 42 40 60
It doesn't matter to me what kind of car my family has 64 25 71 29
I like shopping and going to the shops 78 18 76 24
I wish my parents earned more money 56 28 35 65
I like collecting the latest things that others are collecting 68 22 72 28
I like watching adverts 36 56 25 75
So, in our land of shopkeepers, a new shopping generation has emerged. Across
‘tweens’ and teens, the vast majority (80 per cent) enjoy shopping and going to the
shops and care a lot about their games and ‘other stuff’ (71 per cent).
But the rise of a shopping generation comes at a cost and there are five issues of
concern raised by children that emerge from the research.
• Commercial overload
• Intrusive and inappropriate marketing
• Poverty: the aspiration gap
• Pressure to consume
• Ripped off, put down.
‘I don’t want to be a shopaholic but I just spend money all the time. Nothing I can do…’ (11-
13 year-old girl, C2D)
‘There was this advert for straighteners. They were saying oh yeah it makes your hair look
wonderful…then they’re not saying what actual damage it’s going to do to your hair.’ (14-16
year-old girl, BC1)
‘She’s a little bargain hunter, and she loves shopping. She has a passion for it.’ (14-16 year-
old girl, BC1)
The scrapbooks and photos that children took confirm that they are exposed to a
constant stream of marketing activity, from opening cereal in the morning to opening
their eyes on the street. As one girl put it:
‘Adverts are good because they keep people updated and give people a chance to enjoy the
pleasures in life.’ (14-16 year-old girl, C2D).
Yet most do not see themselves as particularly attached to publicity for the things they
like to consume. Only three out of ten say that they like watching adverts. On the
other hand, they can believe that people are trying to sell to them almost constantly,
something that can result in cynicism. A commercial overload feeds a desensitisation
and a mistrust of the motives of those trying to reach out to them.
• ‘Beyonce is modelling skincare products, so you think, oh her skin’s lovely let’s go out
and buy it, but they’ve probably just airbrushed the picture to make her look really
good.’ (14-16 year-old girl, BC1)
• ‘I don’t read these (magazines) cos actually they just keep trying to sell you stuff. Over
half of it was trying to sell you stuff.’ (14-16 year-old girl, BC1)
• ‘I don’t like adverts. I think you need to be left to make up your own mind about
things. I don’t like the ones that are too much in your face…if yours is the best thing
then I’ll go for it, won’t I?’ (14-16 year-old girl, BC1)
Becoming a ‘shopaholic’ is seen as one possible outcome of this pressure. If so, many
British children have been primed to become a new generation of shopping addicts.
Shopaholics were thought of as constantly wanting something new, wanting things
that you do not need. It is notable, though, that boys think that it is only girls who
shopping generation NR
Comments about what a ‘shopaholic’ is include:
• ‘Like some people, if they’ve seen someone else walking down the street in the same
shoes, then they go and buy a new pair, even though they’ve only worn them once or
twice.’ (11-13 year-old boy, C2D, London)
• ‘Someone who can’t stop spending money’ (14–16 year-old girl, BC1, London)
• ‘They just buy lots of things they want at the time but afterwards they don’t really
want it’ (11-13 year-old girl, C2D, Birmingham)
The idea of compulsive shopping is far from new. Sir Elton John is famous for his
legendary spending sprees, reportedly spending £250,000 a week on credit cards (30).
Shopaholics in history range from Marie Antoinette in the eighteenth century to
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Imelda Marcos in the last.
But is this the preserve of listless rich, or in an age of conspicuous consumption, has the
idea of ‘shop ‘til you drop’ revealed by our research taken on a new, and younger, guise?
There is evidence that some aspects of addiction among the young are on the rise.
Professor Mike Hulme from the University of Lancaster has surveyed more than
150,000 mobile phone users. He concluded in 2004 that the number of ‘phone
addicts’ – including what he calls the 'm-ager', a new breed of phone-addicted
teenager – is doubling every twelve months. These are people unable to cope if they
are more than six feet away from their phone (31).
Mobile phones, and increasingly i-pods, are emotional and aspirational consumer
products for children. They symbolise freedom, growing up, independence and fun.
Adults rate mobile phones top for their convenience, whereas children rate
convenience as the least important benefit (32).
A CBBC discussion in late 2004, prompted by the NCC’s research, suggested that
shopping was an enjoyable way to spend time for many children, and problematic
only in so far as you ended up buying what you didn’t need.
• ‘I think it's pretty normal for kids to be 'shopaholics', especially GIRLS! Girls, like
myself, love to shop, and if there weren't shopaholics shops would have no business!
And, what's wrong with being a shopaholic?’ said Suzie, 14, from Sussex.
• ‘I'm 10, what's the problem? I LOVE shopping for cool clothes. If it's a money thing
then well, the National Consumer Council can't do much about that. But the things in
the shops need buying!’ said Becky, 10, from Oswestry.
• ‘I love shopping. But I just spend it on things that I don't need.’ Natasha, 13, from
• ‘I love shopping if it was up to me I'd do it all the time!’ Lowies, 12, from Walsall
• ‘I think shopping is great. It’s a fab socializing activity with friends or family and it’s
great to find a bargain, but I do think some people can go over the top.’ Mark, 12,
from Shrewsbury (33).
But ‘shopaholics’ are just one extreme; others are simply not interested in shopping at
all. Indeed, our survey shows there is also a substantial minority of those aged
between 10 and 19 for whom the consumer society appears to hold little appeal. Our
survey suggests that:
• more than a third of children don’t care about brand names and one in five
don’t like clothes with popular labels;
• nearly a third don’t wish their parents earned more money;
• one in five doesn’t care a lot about their games and possessions;
• one in three don’t like collecting the latest things that others are collecting;
• a majority - nearly six in ten - do not care what kind of car the family has.
It may be that being a shopaholic is one of the few disorders that it’s OK to laugh at -
a smiled-upon addiction. And yet, when it does turn negative, a commercial overload
comes at a real cost. Dr Adrienne Baker, a senior lecturer in psychotherapy at Regents
College, runs a clinic for shopping addiction. She estimates that 2-8 per cent of
consumers in the UK are shopaholics. ‘It masks a great deal of pain,’ she says. ‘It’s a
symptom of low self-esteem, of bleakness, of aloneness even in the midst of people,
often of depression.’
‘Today I was approached and asked if I would like to buy a mobile phone….I don’t like
it….you immediately feel pressurised’ (Scrapbook extract 11-13 year-old girl, C2D)
shopping generation NT
‘I have seen a lot of things I don’t really want to see, as in a weekly magazine I collect. There
are lots of rude things.’ (11-13 year-old boy, C2D)
In our mini-group discussions, young people expressed the view that companies often
resort to intrusive methods to sell to them. It makes them feel uncomfortable,
pressurised and stressed.
• ‘I was walking down the street and they (mobile phone salespeople) just came
up to me. I really don’t like it because they put loads of pressure on you and
you just want to go away’ (14-16 year-old girl, BC1)
• ‘When you’re approached in the street, it just makes you feel a bit vulnerable’
(14-16 year-old girl, BC1)
• ‘Phone your house, like constantly, it drives me mad’ (14-16 year-old boy,
High on the list of intrusive sales methods is internet-based selling, such as pop-ups.
According to a survey by Professor Sonia Livingstone, London School of Economics
and Political Science, 19 per cent of children have internet access in their bedroom.
Most are online for less than an hour, but one on four use it for longer, including one
in twenty that use it for more than three hours a day on average. Forty-four per cent
of children (aged 9 - 19) using the internet weekly have completed a quiz online.
And 17 per cent have sent pictures or stories to a website (34) .
A Kids.net survey in 2000 suggested that up to a quarter of children may have been
upset by online content, but that few reported this to an adult. Professor Livingstone
quotes one interviewee, Nina, 17 from Manchester, who said ‘my little sister, she’d
type in like her favourite artist or band, and porn sites just come up that had their
name on it…Boyzone…Spice Girls…She was eleven at the time.’ (35)
In our mini-group discussions, children felt that companies use inappropriate ways to
sell to them, including selling goods to them they often want but can not buy, such as
‘over-18’ films. They report that sexual images in advertising also cause
embarrassment and are used excessively.
• ‘Like stupid things now, all the adverts basically around sex, like even deodorants and
tic-tacs, they’ve got nothing to do with it’ (14-16 year-old girl, BC1)
• ‘Like magazines, like Nuts and things. On the front page there’s a really dirty picture
and if you’re like ten and you’re watching it, you don’t really want to see it.’ (11-13
year-old boy, C2D)
Similarly, 57 per cent say that they have come into contact with online porn, most of
it accidentally such as in the form of pop-ups. One in four has received pornographic
spam. One in three report having received unwanted sexual content or nasty
comments online or by text message, though only seven per cent of parents are aware
that their child has received sexual comments and only four per cent that their child
has been bullied online (36).
Online privacy has been a concern for parents and children’s charities. Many
children’s websites collects personal information from children, with no effective
check for parental consent (37). Childnet International has done excellent work to
help make the internet safe for children, from chatrooms to mobile downloads. In our
research, children appeared to frame privacy as issues of nuisance, intrusion and
discomfort with inappropriate content.
Under voluntary rules drawn up with groups including the National Family and
Parenting Institute, mobile phone companies restrict ‘adult services’ to users that can
prove that they are 18 or over. However, beyond ‘x-rated’ services, this does little to
limit age-inappropriate content or intrusive marketing by phone to children.
From a parental perspective, age verification is also no guarantee of protection. In
relation to drinking, children have developed what appears to be a wide variety of
creative schemes that attempt to circumvent age requirements. And in 2004,
GamCare, Citizencard and the Children's Charities' Coalition on Internet Safety,
tested 37 online gaming sites to see if a child could set up an account. On their behalf,
a 16 year-old girl tried to register with 37 gambling websites. Only seven refused her
Codes of practice on marketing to children
To explore what companies say about intrusive and inappropriate selling techniques
and other issues of concern, the NCC has conducted a review of current codes of
practice on marketing to children.
The key findings are:
• There are different levels of codes. They range from the statutory to the
voluntary and vary across products, from alcohol to food, and across different
modes of communication, such as broadcast and non-broadcast media.
shopping generation NV
• Codes tend to borrow from each other. They are focused on preventing
outright harm and the deception of children. They have, in general, less to say
in terms of restricting the ways in which marketing promotions can influence
• A positive exception, that limits promotions that play on the vulnerability of
consumers, is from the Portman Group, an industry body focusing on alcohol.
This rules out any advertising, marketing or promotion that suggest ‘any
association with sexual success, or that the product can lead to social success or
• A trawl of company websites suggests that there is little in the way of company
voluntary codes of good practice. Some of the food and drink companies and
the BBC are honourable exceptions.
• Where companies do set age restrictions, they vary extensively on the age
chosen, typically at any stage from ages 6 to 12.
• It is not just companies involved in marketing. Some charities operate on the
edge of acceptable practice in relation to children (40).
• When monitoring compliance, codes do not say how and whether they
consult children themselves. It is hard to judge whether a promotion
encourages children to pester their parents or makes them feel ‘uncool’ for
lacking a product, without understanding how children themselves see them.
• The codes fail to set effective terms on celebrity endorsements and the use of
cartoon characters in promotions such as for food. Cartoon characters are of
particular influence in relation to younger children.
• The codes address marketing focused exclusively on children, rather than
starting from the perspective of children and recognising that they are
regularly exposed to media aimed at the family or even an adult audience.
• The codes are not designed and not able to deal with the overall scale of
marketing to children. The provisions of codes as a whole are designed to deal
with individual advertisements, not the cumulative effect of marketing
• Restrictions, whether official or voluntary, rarely apply to the full range of
marketing activity, and in particular new media such as the internet (41).
Website content that is not actual advertising is excluded, and yet many
companies’ children’s websites are clearly marketing tools, helping to win
customer loyalty (with activities to pursue, communities to join) and showcase
merchandise. As 38 per cent of children (aged 9-19) trust most of the
information on the internet, this is a major omission (42). As the European
Heart Network puts it in relation to diet and health, ‘the internet is virtually
unregulated in terms of food promotions’ (43).
‘I just kept asking her, and in the end she just gave up and got it.’ (11-13 year-old boy,
“I like going shopping … but like it’s really boring and that with like my Mum and brothers
and that cos they like say can we hurry up now? Can we do this? Can we do that? And I’m
like no.” (11-13 year-old girl, C2D)
“[I feel depressed] when I don’t have enough money to get it.” (11-13 year-old boy, C2D)
The commercialised society is not just about what you have. It is also about what you
don’t have. One of the most significant findings from the survey is that the children
that have the least want things the most. This aspiration gap is most marked in the
most disadvantaged households, in socio-economic groups C2 and DE, whose
children are most interested in consumer and materialist concerns.
All the children we surveyed tended to know what they want and having the right
things matters to them. Seven out of ten like clothes with popular labels and more
than half consider the brand name important when they buy something. And they are
influenced by their peers: more than half like collecting the latest things that others
are collecting. But having the right thing comes at a price and half of these youngsters
wish they, or their families, had more money to pay for them: 50 per cent agree with
the statements ‘I wish my parents gave me more money to spend’ and ‘I wish my
parents earned more money’.
Yet, the homes where the children were the keenest consumers in terms of liking
brands and labels were also the homes where money could expect to be tightest.
Unsurprisingly, perhaps, these were also the youngsters expressing the most discontent
with family spending.
While the vast majority of all 10-19 year-olds in all classes like shopping, youngsters
in lower-income groups were the most likely to be ‘brand aware’ (44). They are more
shopping generation ON
bothered about the make of the family car. They find brand names important and
they want clothes with popular labels. Advertising helps to feed such aspirations:
• “This advert’s quite cool because it makes you think you could totally change yourself,
become a different person for the day.” (On advert for shower cream, 14-16 year-
old girl, C2D)
• “[This advert] made me think my mum should have a night out.” (11-13 year-old
• “It made me feel like I wanted it for the family.” (On advert for BMW, 11-13
year-old boy, C2D)
Children from single-parent households, and households with no parent working, also
follow a similar pattern. Children in single-parent homes were also slightly more
likely to say that they cared about their games ‘and other stuff’ - 75 per cent agreed.
A consumer orientation is likely to be a symptom, rather than a cause, of poverty. It
has long been recognised that not wearing the ‘correct clothes’ can lead children to
embarrassment and bullying (45). Parents struggle hard to protect their children from
shame – and make sure that their children’s lunchboxes are as full as their classmates.
In this way, snacks like crisps or chocolates are not seen as luxuries but a way for their
children to participate in conventional behaviour.
This ‘social psychology’ of food, coupled with low prices and extensive marketing for
less healthy products, is one reason that children on low income have, in general,
have diets low in fresh fruit and high in fat. Child obesity, of which there has been a
three-fold increase over the last 25 years, faster than in the USA, is one of the clearest
markers of poverty.
Our research suggests that the stronger desire for the (usually) more expensive labels,
combined with the reality of lower family income, generates significantly higher levels
• 75 per cent of C2DE children like clothes with popular labels, against 61 per
cent of ABs;
• 55 per cent of C2DEs say that the brand name is important to them when
they buy something, compared to 47 per cent of ABs.
• 56 per cent of C2DEs wish their parents earned more money, compared to 27
per cent of ABs;
• Just under one in two C2DEs wish their family ‘could afford to buy me more
of what I want’ (compared to less than one in three ABs);
• 54 per cent of C2DEs wish their parents gave them more money to spend
(compared to 45 per cent of ABs).
Interestingly, this connects with research that suggests that, when they do get it, children
in poorer households get more pocket money than others – particularly at primary
school stage. These same children are also most likely to say that they get too little
pocket money. And they expect to be disappointed when birthdays come around (46).
This aspiration gap does have long-term implications. Poorer children are more likely
to leave school early. Keen to enter the adult consumer world, they are, compared to
better off children, more concerned to get a job and less concerned to build a career.
The short-term gain is outweighed over time by the long-term costs of leaving
This is poverty twisting the knife. In a consumer society, marketing and media that
tells others what they can have, tells you what you can’t. Inevitably, every new
product that promotes inclusion, whether the trainers on your feet or the clothes you
wear, can also create exclusion. As Camilla Batmanghelidjh, founder of Kids
Company in Southwark, says ‘The poverty in Britain is worse than in poor countries
because it is so isolating. The discrepancy is staring you in the face all the time – on
TV, in the shops.’ Batmanghelidjh talks of the children she works with and ‘the
urgency of returning their childhood to them’ (47).
While many of the worst forms of poverty have been eradicated, these are its new,
contemporary variants, coupling the lack of money with the lack of dignity. It is not
enough to be poor in today’s world. You have to feel it.
shopping generation OP
‘Also, you know when you have those feelings, you’re having an off-day, but everything seems
to point at the thing that you’re annoyed at, it’s like everything. That’s irritating, but that’s
just a coincidence. When there’s lots of beautiful women on TV saying how beautiful they are,
and you’ve got loads of people around. But I suppose that’s just when you’re having an off-
day.’ (14-16 year-old girl, BC1)
‘So it’s quite irritating when they’re advertising lip gloss or something, and they’ve always got
perfect hair and their skin’s so smooth. It’s just like what are you advertising.’ (14-16 year-
old girl, BC1)
‘I hate it. I have to have saved up for six weeks before I can actually go shopping, cos then
when you can go shopping and it can be a spree as opposed to, yeah, I can’t buy that. And
then you’re faced with all these new, different products, skirts and stuff, and you’re like I can’t
buy it.’ (14-16 year-old girl, BC1)
The psychological implications for children of a commercial overload run further. In
her research with children in the USA, Juliet Schor found that the more commercially
aware children – the ones who cared about their possessions, were brand aware and
liked collecting – were also the most likely to be dissatisfied. The same connection
appears to hold in the UK (48).
To explore this, we divided those that responded into ‘brand aware/less brand aware’
and ‘satisfied/dissatisfied’ (49). These groups correlate well with other aspects of
consumer involvement. The results suggest that the more commercially aware
children – the ones who were ‘brand aware’, cared about their possessions and liked
collecting – were also the most likely to be dissatisfied. Fifty-nine per cent of brand-
aware children are dissatisfied compared to 47 per cent of less brand aware children.
At a more detailed level, those that were dissatisfied were the more commercially
aware in that they were more likely to care about their possessions, to like labels, to
think brands are important and to like collecting. And they were more likely to have
felt ripped off.
Table 2: Consumer attitude and dissatisfaction
Statement Dissatisfied Satisfied
I care a lot about my games and ‘other stuff’ 76 per cent agree 65 per cent agree
I like clothes with popular labels 82 per cent agree 64 per cent agree
When I buy something the brand name is 63 per cent agree 49 per cent agree
important to me
I like collecting things that others are 69 per cent agree 43 per cent agree
There have been times when I feel I have 77 per cent agree 64 per cent agree
been ripped off when I’ve bought something
Now what causes what? If you are dissatisfied, are you drawn to consumer
involvement? Or, if you are actively involved as a young consumer, are you drawn to
From her extended analysis, which included aspects of children’s well-being, Juliet
Schor concluded that, at least in the USA, it is a one-way relationship.
‘High consumer involvement is a significant cause of depression, anxiety, low self-
esteem and psychosomatic complaints. Psychologically healthy children will be made
worse off if they become more enmeshed in the culture of getting and spending.
Children with emotional problems will be helped if they disengage from the worlds
that corporations are constructing for them. The effects operate in both directions and
are symmetric i.e. less involvement in consumer cultures leads to healthier kids and
more involvement leads to kids’ psychological well-being to deteriorate.’ (50)
The cause that she identifies is marketing to children. Commercial marketing
positions itself in between the parent and the child. Advertising and promotions create
utopian spaces for imagination and fantasy, but abuse the creativity they deploy by
positioning the marketer with the child against the parent.
shopping generation OR
Higher levels of consumer involvement result in worse relationships with parents, which
in turn knock on to children’s well-being. Relating poorly to their parents leads children
to a higher incidence of depression and anxiety and to lower self-esteem.
But if consumer involvement for children is not retail therapy, but therapy-inducing
retail, then these findings are of relevance to one of the most disturbing trends in
modern society. This is the rise of mental health disorders among children.
• A 25-year study of adolescent mental health by the Institute of Psychiatry at
King's College London and the University of Manchester, published in 2004,
found that, compared to 1974 figures, today's 15-year-olds are more than
twice as likely to display behavioural problems such as lying, stealing and
disobedience, and are 70 per cent more likely to experience emotional
problems such as anxiety and depression.
• Some 10 per cent of children aged between 11 and 15 have a clinically
recognised mental disorder. Among 16- to 19-year-olds, it is even worse – 13
per cent have neurotic disorders. 14 per cent of those in social class five suffer,
compared with 5 per cent in social class one (51).
• While the evidence base on the numbers of teenagers that harm themselves is
patchy, one estimate, from the Mental Health Foundation, is that nearly half a
million teenagers are self-harming (52).
• Attempted suicides among teenagers has reached 60–70,000 a year. As many as
two or three girls in every 100 make a suicide attempt at some time during
their teenage years. Suicide is the second most common cause of death in 15-
34 year old males, and there has been 75 per cent increase in suicide rates in
young men aged 15-24 since 1982 (53).
• In 2004, Childline counselled more than 14,000 15-year-olds (54).
It appears that today’s shopping generation is the least happy of the post-war era. Of course,
it is still possible that mental health disorders are more readily diagnosed than before. But
even so, as Gary Bayliss, of the mental health charity Young Minds, says starkly: ‘What we
are doing to our teenagers is a question we must find the answer to.’ (55)
From a less academic but well-informed source, Chantelle Horton, assistant features
editor of teen magazine Bliss, which has a core readership of 15-year-olds, says
‘Today's 15-year-olds worry about the same things 15-year-olds have always worried
about - boys and sex and spots. But I think they also have other things to worry about
– they worry more about being cool, and about cash and material goods … I think
they feel a bit lost, and worried, particularly about the future.’ (56)
More than a third of 2000 14 to 15-year-old girls questioned by Bliss magazine said they
have felt unhappy or miserable. Top of the list for making them feel stressed was feeling
they have to look good. More than one in six said they have been bullied, mostly because
of what they looked like, while other reasons including being too clever and the clothes
they wear (57). The scrapbooks of adverts put together by children in our research
confirm that children are encouraged to look good, not to be clever.
At an even younger level, 71.4 per cent of seven-year-old girls want to be slimmer,
according to a study in the March 2005 British Journal of Developmental Psychology.
Most thought this would make them more popular (58).
Of course, more in-depth research on the connection between consumer life and
mental health would help. But our research in the mini-group discussions tends to
confirm the Bliss analysis, including the way that the use of celebrities and models in
advertising can negatively affect older girls’ self perceptions. Some liked and
appreciated the use of celebrities.
‘I liked these [magazine adverts] because it said your hair could look like Beyonce’s or your nails
like Christina’s. I would like to buy [them]’ commented one 11-13 year-old girl (C2D).
Other responses from girls pointed to feelings of their own inadequacy in comparison.
• ‘There’s lots of beautiful women on TV saying how beautiful they are’ (14-16 year-
old girl, BC1)
• ‘You know when you’re in a dressing room and it’s looks so pretty on the model and
it’s like it doesn’t look like that on me. That makes me really angry and makes me
want to stop shopping.’ (14-16 year-old girl, BC1)
There was also some cynicism towards use of celebrities:
• ‘I think if you use stars and status as a way of selling it makes me think that if you’ve
got to get a star to do it then your product obviously isn’t able to sell itself.’ (14-16
year-old girl, BC1)
• ‘Everyone thinks ‘Beyonce is advertising skin cream and her skin is perfect so it must be
good’ when actually she didn’t use the product and is only doing it for money’
(Scrapbook extract, 14-16 year-old girl, BC1)
shopping generation OT
While children enjoy the experience when they are a consumer, it is clear that the
pressures to consume from the hyper-stimulated world of children’s commercial
culture may be a contributory factor to rising mental ill-health. If so, this is likely to
happen in the following ways:
• Excessive marketing that can help to disrupt the parent/child relationship.
• Consumer pressures that are highest for children from the poorest households,
contributing to the psychology of poverty.
• Promises made by marketing that cannot be delivered create cynicism or
• For some, marketing conveys images that feed frustration and reduced self-esteem.
Nancy Shalek, president of the Shalek Agency, puts it more simply and candidly
when she says that:
‘advertising at its best is making people feel that without their product, you’re a
loser. Kids are very sensitive to that. If you tell them to buy something, they are
resistant. But if you tell them that they’ll be a dork if they don’t, you’ve got their
attention. You open up emotional vulnerabilities and it’s very easy to do with kids
because they’re the most emotionally vulnerable.’ (59)
Choosing Health: making healthy choices easier, Department of Health, 2004
‘The way you dress and that they think you’re going to rob something or someone.’ (11-13
year-old girl, C2D)
‘I bought a ring, a different ring to that one, but it weren’t the right size and took it back and
they were saying can’t take it back, you should have kept the receipt, and I had the receipt and
they were saying that’s not the receipt, that’s not our name and everything. I just lost the plot
myself. Give me my money back, otherwise I’m taking you to court.’ (14-16 year-old boy,
‘When you go in, you can see them looking at you like hmm, I bet she hasn’t got any money to
spend in here, she’s going to steal something, and everyone looks at you.’ (14-16 year-old
Seven out of ten children we surveyed reported that they have felt ripped off at times
when they’ve bought things (71 per cent). In the mini-group discussions, we explored
how this might be. There were two primary set of concerns.
The first were to do with feeling let down by what they got. The sense that they
were being ‘ripped off’ often revolves around the false expectations set by advertising.
Experience has taught them products often don’t live up to the ‘hype’. Girls are
cynical, for example, about hair and beauty product advertising. ‘All these shampoos
and conditioners don’t really do anything’ said a 14-16 year-old girl (BC1). Similarly,
boys are cynical about computer games. ‘I think wow this looks really good, the
graphics are good and then you play and it wasn’t like this when I saw it on TV.’ (14-
16 year-old boy, BC1)
Misleading pricing also leads to young people feeling ripped off – and the feeling they
are ‘paying over the odds’ for goods:
• ‘Trainers….they cost like a fiver to make and they sell them for 150….they’re just
trying to rip you off’ (14-16 year-old boy, BC1)
• ‘I went into Monsoon and it was like £80 for a hat! You can get one for like £4 in
another shop and what’s the difference?’ (14-16 year-old girl, BC1)
• ‘Yeah, like PlayStation or the PS3 what’s just come out. It’s like £240 to buy brand
new but next year it will be half-price’ (11-13 year-old boy, C2D)
shopping generation OV
Offers and special deals that are ‘too good to be true’ anger young people. They often
revolve around conditions in the small print, such as around offers for mobile phone
• ‘It’s a rip off cos it says 35p for a ring tone but you send off for that they keep sending
you text messages that cost you money’ (11-13 year-old girl, C2D)
• ‘Things on TV….you go there and it’s like a totally different price, it’s twice the price
what it said on TV’ (14-16 year-old boy, BC1)
• ‘There’s always tiny writing at the bottom. They just tied me up to this subscription
that I didn’t want.’ (14-16 year-old girl, BC1)
• ‘I texted in, and they put me on to this subscription thing, and I’m getting a ring tone
every week, and I don’t actually want them. I only wanted one. Yeah, they keep
charging you.’ (14-16 year-old girl, BC1)
In other research conducted by the NCC in 2004, we asked consumers who they
rated lowest in terms of service providers (60). One in five 16-24 year-olds were
dissatisfied with mobile phone companies – higher than other age groups. As a result,
mobile phone companies were ranked rated worse than door to door salesmen.
The Halifax Pocket Money Survey also gathered children’s views on what they
regarded as over-priced. Mobile phones came top. Other items ranked as too
expensive included CDs/tapes, computer games and equipment, gifts and magazines
(61). In other research for the Youth, Citizenship and Social Change programme, the
financial services sector is viewed as unsympathetic and not geared to help young
people on financial matters (62).
Table 3: What children buy per week 2002-04
aged 10-12 aged 13-15
Boys Girls Boys Girls
Confectionery, snacks and drinks £2.20 £2.40 £3.20 £3.20
Other food purchases £2.10 £2.10 £3.80 £3.40
Clothing and footwear 70p £2.00 £2.50 £5.30
Personal Care 10p 40p 20p £1.20
Magazines, newspapers, books and
stationery 70p 90p 60p £1.10
Music 30p 40p £1.20 £1.00
Other entertainment (videos, DVDs) 20p 10p 40p 20p
Games, toys, hobbies, pets £2.50 90p £2.60 50p
Sporting and cultural activities 80p 80p £1.60 £1.20
Travel 30p 30p 60p 60p
Mobile phones and charges 20p 40p 90p £1.50
Other expenditure 70p £1.10 £1.60 £2.20
Total (£ per week) £10.80 £11.70 £19.30 £21.50
Family Spending: a report on the 2003-04 Expenditure and Food Survey
Office for National Statistics (SP)
The second major set of issues relating to the treatment of young people by
companies focused on being ‘put down’.
In the research for this report, the young people we spoke to felt passionate that they
are being discriminated against. They feel that they are treated differently, as second-
• ‘They don’t respect us as much, they don’t listen as well’ (14-16 year-old boy, BC1)
shopping generation PN
• ‘They take advantage of you. Cos we’re younger and they don’t think we’re going to
do anything about it. We don’t have any respect as a customer’ (11-13 year-old girl,
• ‘A lot of them take advantage of you. Say like you want to buy one game, oh, pay
£15 more and you can get two. If you’re with your parents they wouldn’t do that’
(14-16 year-old boy, BC1)
• ‘I went to get a key cut because I needed another key, and I went in and they just
ignored me, I just stood at the thing for ages, waiting, and I just thought forget this,
and I went to another place.’ (14-16 year-old boy, BC1)
• ‘I felt like they felt that they had more important people to deal with, like adults and
that.’ (14-16 year-old boy, BC1)
The same may be true for public services. Sir Ian Kennedy, in his review in 2001 of
failings in children's heart surgery, condemned the failure of professional staff to talk
to children. Arguably, a formidable array of other public services talks at children.
Services are rarely integrated from the perspective of a child. For example, services
such as programmes to stop smoking, young parents’ support service, child talk,
mental health helplines, armed services, alcohol and drugs services, Connexions,
Gateway, school nurses, youth offending teams, ‘5 a day’, and advice for teenage
pregnancy, tobacco, chlamydia screening, fireworks, and so on (64).
The Home Office conducted a one-day count on 10 September 2003, which yielded
over 66,000 reports of anti-social behaviour recorded by public services. Around 60
per cent of these were believed to have been down to the actions of young people.
With the new use of anti-social behaviour orders, the number of juveniles in custody
has doubled over the past decade (65). According to the United Nations, the UK
‘still locks up more children than most other industrialised countries.’ (66) Ministers
talk of rebuilding a culture of ‘respect’, while shopping centres ban children from
wearing the same ‘hoodies’ that their own shops sell.
Yet, every year, one in three children age 10-15 are victims of a crime (67). Over
one-third of teenagers say they have been offered drugs (68). Drugs, street crime and
the rising gang culture are all areas where young people have a major stake, not just as
perpetrators but also as victims.
There are also important, though rarely acknowledged, connections between crime
and a society that promotes high levels of consumption. The high incidence of mobile
phone theft is connected to the need to have the latest handset and the latest features.
The most common reasons given by young people who commit crimes are boredom,
to get money or to be able to conform to peer behaviour (69).
Clearly, there is a larger set of issues at work here. And yet for companies, service
providers or indeed politicians, to paint children as second-class citizens and as would-
be criminals is as irrational, and ought to be as offensive, as any other form of
Not taken Patronised
shopping generation PP
3. Children’s agenda on consumer life
We asked the children that participated in the mini-group discussions to put together
a set of guidelines for companies on how to sell to younger people. It is a small sample
of views rather than a national petition. But the results are as sophisticated, balanced
and meaningful as anything that adults and marketing and policy experts might have
The ideas revolved around four themes:
• Be honest and upfront about products and services
• Treat young people with respect and take them seriously
• Curb the use of inappropriate advertising aimed at younger people
• Put tighter controls on the marketing of products that are bad for young people.
Children said that:
• ‘[Advertising should] tell you all the information and how much it’s going to cost you’
(14-16 year-old boy, BC1)
• ‘Put more information about the product, make it simple and straightforward and don’t
lie or make promises you can’t keep’ (14-16 year-old girl, BC1,)
• ‘Try to make it more understandable.’ (11-13 year-old girl, C2D)
• ‘[young people should be treated] equally. Don’t put you down…look down on you’
(11-13 year-old boy, C2D)
• ‘I think they should treat you like equals, cos you’re all customers to their shop’ (11-13
year-old girl, C2D)
• ‘Be more friendly to customers.’ (11-13 year-old girl, C2D)
• ‘I think you should separate adult advertising with children’s advertising’ (11-13 year-
old boy, C2D)
• ‘I don’t think they [young people] should see it [sexual images in advertising] because
then they’re going to do them things.’ (11-13 year-old girl, C2D)
• ‘Stop trying to sell us things that we can’t have.’ (14-16 year-old boy, BC1)
• ‘There should be a limit to what food they promote. Two out of three kids adverts are
about food’ (14-16 year-old girl, BC1)
• ‘The TV adverts should change the adverts on junk food because too many kids … get
addicted to the fatty foods.’ (11-13 year-old boy, C2D)
• ‘Please, please, please begin to promote healthy foods.’ (14-16 year-old girl, BC1)
shopping generation PR
4. How can parents help?
It is natural for older generations to be concerned about the upbringing of the young.
Not all their concerns will be shared by children. Research by Ofcom’s Consumer
Panel, for example, found that adults ‘are largely concerned for the younger
generation and how they may come to lose the art of face-to-face communication as
they will be so used to conversing with others via their mobile phones.’ (70)
Stephen Kline, author and Professor of Communication at Canada’s Simon Fraser
University, is sceptical of such concerns. He argues that children are often:
‘objects of ‘media panics’ not merely because they are often media pioneers; not merely
because they challenge social and cultural power relations, nor because they symbolise
ideological rifts. They are panic targets just as much because they inevitably represent
experiences and emotions that are irrevocably lost to adults.’ (71)
Newspaper coverage helps to inform, and reinforce, such concerns. Sir William
Stewart, for example, conducted an official review of the safety of mobile phones. He
found himself in the news as much for stopping his grandchildren from using them on
health grounds, as for the substance of his report.
Yet, there clearly are concerns over the consumer life of children that connect parents
and children. Parents are well aware of the influence of the consumer society (72).
And there is extensive evidence that parents accept that the primary responsibility for
children rests with them.
This looks as if it is about new parenting skills. How do you bring up children in the
context of a fast-moving, acquisitive consumer world? Or perhaps it is simply a new
context for old parenting skills – a new chapter in the tussle of control and freedom
between parent and child.
The truth is that parental control is not easy. In relation to the internet, four out of
ten parents check up on their children’s use afterwards. Nine out of ten parents do
not allow their children to give out personal information and two out of three parents
ban use of chat rooms (73). And yet many a tech-savvy teenager knows how to
obscure online footsteps. Blocking and filtering too is available, but not entirely
reliable. Even among parents that use the internet, only 15 per cent say that they
know how to install filtering software (74).
One way to build the skills of children is to work with their interests as consumers,
rather than against them. A comprehensive review of children’s ‘media literacy’ by
David Buckingham, Centre for the Study of Children, University of London,
comments that education efforts designed as ‘counter-propaganda’ to commercial
media are less successful than approaches that start from an engagement with the
capacity and interests of children in the use of media (75).
Being a young consumer means being able to have fun and try new things, while
having a safety net (parents) if things go wrong. It can be a way to play. For parents,
pre-pay mobiles may be a good way of helping children to learn to budget. Regular
pocket money, similarly, is a good way of helping children to learn about money and
its management. It seems helpful for parents to take an interest in how their children
participate in commercial life, such as sitting with them when watching television, or
talking to them about what they have seen or played online. Other good practice
could include parents agreeing ‘house rules’ with their children, setting limits and
protocols about mobile phone usage and online access.
But there is little formal support for parents in relation to these and the concerns
raised in this report (76). Indeed, Harvard University’s Susan Linn contends that we
have put parents in the position of ‘playing David to the corporate Goliaths’ (77).
Accepting the commonsense principle of parental responsibility does not mean a
belief that only parents should be held accountable.
shopping generation PT
5. Putting the children’s agenda into action
Children’s issues have made their way up the official policy agenda in recent years.
Significant advances have been made, including: a National Service Framework for
children’s health and care; commitments to reduce child poverty; the appointment of
the Children’s Minister; the expansion of early years services; clearer inspection of
children’s services; the development of a Youth Green Paper; and the appointment by
a panel of children of England’s first Children’s Commissioner, Professor Aynsley
Green, to join Commissioners in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
To date, the policy framework has revolved around the role of public services in
supporting parents and children. The issues highlighted from our research suggest that
what has been overlooked is an engagement with the commercial environment that
plays such a significant role in shaping children’s life chances and wellbeing.
We recommend that the Department for Education and Skills (DfES), under the
auspices of the Minister for Children, Young People and Families, take action to
address this by undertaking a child and parent-centred review of children and
commercialisation. Such a review should be wide-ranging and inclusive, exploring
issues as fundamental as the kind of society, with what values, that children are to
grow up in and how better to create this.
The Children’s agenda on consumer life already points a number of ways in which
decision-makers in business and government can take action.
Given the scepticism displayed by the children in our survey, businesses will have to
earn their trust rather than assume it. A reputation for honesty and straight-dealing
can pay back, particularly for businesses selling branded products and services. One of
the most positive ways in which people can help is by sharing their experience, good
or bad, with other consumers. The NCC, for example, has pioneered proposals for a
‘trader information’ service to help do this, inspired in part by the emergence of
‘reputation systems’ on the internet that allow shoppers to rate companies online.
Yet, there will always be cowboy businesses willing to be dishonest and to break the
rules. An example of this, raised by children in our research, is the mis-selling of
The problem is not that regulators lack the tools to tackle rogue businesses. The
problem is that they are not used. A range of consumer protection measures have
been introduced over recent years, including ‘Stop Now’ orders. They are likely to be
strengthened in future by the UK version of another proposal championed by the
NCC, the EU Unfair Commercial Practices Directive. To tackle deceptive practices
and mis-selling to children, the regulators concerned need to be more proactive in
monitoring what is going on.
We recommend that regulators, such as the Office of Fair Trading, the expected new
Consumer and Trading Standards Agency, Ofcom and ICSTIS, prepare a ‘Childrens’
Consumer Interest Assessment’, to identify and monitor issues of concern to children.
We recommend, given the commercial opportunities in exploiting the relative
vulnerability of children and the detriment that flows from it, that regulators indicate
that they will triple the level of fines on business mis-selling to children, compared to
those for adults.
The rights of children at different age levels vary in the UK and across Europe on a
number of counts. The definition of a child ranges from under 12 years of age in the
Netherlands, Norway and Sweden to under 21 years of age in Estonia. In England, it
is an old principle of law that someone under the age of 18 years cannot be bound by
a contract. And yet such an age limit might appear at odds with the consumer
involvement of children aged 16 to 18.
While there has been a wider debate around the rights of children in the UK, the
‘reverse ageism’ in everyday settings pointed to by children in our research has yet to
be recognised by decision-makers. There has been virtually no discussion, for
example, of young people in relation to the new Commission for Equality and
We recommend that Children’s Commissioners in the UK take up and explore the
issue of children’s experience as consumers.
There is more recognition, of course, of what society can do to equip children
through education. According to David Buckingham, the UK is relatively advanced,
internationally, in the field of education for media literacy (78). Current activity
includes the compulsory teaching of media education from Key Stage 3 of the
National Curriculum. Media Smart, a modest, media literacy initiative of the
advertising industry, is also often cited. At the same time, Buckingham’s study also
pointed to gaps in knowledge and best practice that could be extended more widely.
shopping generation PV
While it is helpful that the regulator, Ofcom, has a mandate on media literacy, such
literacy is just one of the life skills that children will need to acquire (79). It is one
stage of development for children to be aware of marketing and its intent. It is quite
another to have developed the skills to be able to navigate the commercial world as a
consumer, comparing prices, risks and the value of what is on offer.
The NCC has helped to develop consumer resources for teachers with the Institute
for Citizenship and pioneered the case, with widespread support, for a national
strategy for consumer education, now led by the Office of Fair Trading (80). This
needs to be extended in a more systematic way for children.
We recommend that the DfES draws up a Consumer Life Skills Audit for England, in
partnership with the relevant sectoral regulators, setting out timescales, priorities and
resources required for the UK to achieve a world-class educational framework for
children in relation to the life skills they need as consumers in the market.
This will connect with efforts to achieve a balance in terms of commercial exposure
in the school and pre-school environment. Almost a decade ago the NCC published
guidelines on Sponsorship in Schools, including a checklist for teachers, school boards
and parents. These were updated, but with a degree of watering down, by DfES in
2002. To review these guidelines, our linked organisation, the Scottish Consumer
Council, recently launched a public consultation in Scotland on sponsorship in
There may also be new ways of funding educational programmes. This could include
returning to proposals floated by one of the NCC’s predecessors, the Molony
Committee on Consumer Protection, for a tax on advertising. In Germany, for
example, a new initiative increases taxes on the ‘alcopops’ that are widely consumed
by young people (81). The tax revenues are then be used to promote work to
prevent alcohol abuse among children.
There is a need, too, for government to address the rise of mental ill-health among
children and the concerns of children in poverty, outlined in this report. Child
poverty emerges as a dynamic ceiling of what children lack, rather than a static floor
of what they have. Government policy will therefore want to understand what the
NCC has termed ‘market exclusion’ - and how a commercial world creates exclusion
for some children as surely as inclusion for others.
We recommend one way to promote such integration, which is for the Treasury to
publish, on an annual basis, a ‘Children’s well-being index’.
This would combine objective indicators of the state of children, together with
subjective, survey-based data on how they experience the world, particularly across
the key domains of their lives, such as:
• friendships and peer relationships
• self-esteem and body image
• neighbourhood and community, and
• consumer life.
Internationally, a range of disciplines are contributing to an increasing rigour in the
field of well-being studies (82). The UK sustainable development strategy also
contains a commitment to “explore how policies might change with an explicit well-
being focus” and a suggestion that a “comprehensive set of wellbeing indicators”
might be developed to support the strategy (83). Starting with children might be the
most straightforward approach. The Children’s Well-Being Index would be a way not
just to track children’s quality of life, but to influence policy in favour of it.
Education is a complement, but not an alternative, to controls on marketing. The way
that children are targeted is clearly something of a turkey shoot.
While the responsibility for addressing this starts with childrens’ parents, as Juliet
Schor argues, ‘many advertisers speak with a forked tongue about parental
responsibility. To the public they extol it. To their clients, they boast about their
ability to exploit parental weakness’ (84). One goal for government and businesses is
therefore to support rather than undermine the position of parents.
Ofcom, for example, has been exploring how to label content across television,
internet, the mobile and games industries. The entertainment industry has the most
experience on this, including the age classifications for films and ‘parental advisory
guidance’ on CDs. ‘British Board of Film Censors’-style content labelling would help
parents and children choose between appropriate and inappropriate entertainment
content. Even so, there is no one system yet on the horizon to relate content to what
shopping generation QN
age it may be appropriate for, for children. And Ofcom is not able to enforce a
system, partly because internet content falls outside of its remit.
We recommend that Ofcom be given specific reserve powers to enforce content
labelling, in line with action taken by other regulators at an international level.
Given concerns about the unregulated nature of internet promotions to children, we
also recommend that consideration be given to widening the legislative powers of
Ofcom (and its international equivalents) to oversee the regulation of related internet
On mobile phones, we recommend that telecoms companies get together to offer a
‘children’s privacy option’ at point of sale.
This could be implemented by retailers or built in technically into the phone
registration process as an option for everyone to choose whether to sign up as a matter
of course. This would offer greater control, both on marketing and the collection of
personal information from children, than the current system which means that
everything short of an x-rating is OK to peddle to children.
More widely on privacy, two steps that we recommend that would help are:
• In relation to children’s privacy the European data protection regime should classify
personal data from children as sensitive data, requiring explicit parental consent.
• The Information Commissioner should issue a Code of Practice on children’s
privacy online, and explore options for raising awareness among children on
privacy online (85).
There is no evidence in our research that children want all advertising banned. But
they argue for better rules on marketing to children. Such controls already exist, but
our analysis is that there are ways in which they need to be improved, both by
companies and by decision-makers such as Ofcom and the Advertising Standards
Authority. These include action to:
• restrict advertising and promotions directed to an audience of children for
foods high in fat/ salt / sugar, including limits on advertising of these during
key times of children viewing (86);
• apply controls for such foods on the use of cartoon characters, celebrities, free
gifts and other similar promotional techniques to appeal to children;
• extend restrictions to the full range of marketing activity, including new media
such as websites, as well as sponsorship, branded merchandise, advertorials and
• rule out promotions direct to children, drawing on the example of the
Portman Group, that suggest ‘any association with sexual success, or that the
product can lead to social success or popularity’.
Further consideration is required on:
• how and whether codes can address the cumulative effect of marketing
• how codes start from the perspective of children, recognising that they are
regularly exposed to media aimed at the family rather than address marketing
focused exclusively on children;
• at what minimum age of child development it is right to restrict all targeted
Of course, controls on marketing are no ‘magic bullet’ solution, given the many ways
that consumer choices are visible and open to children in contemporary society. As
the journalist Sean Dodson laconically comments ‘mobile phone companies have
done such a good job of not marketing to under-16s that nearly two-thirds of them
now own a phone’ (87).
A risk with setting controls on the easier-to-spot traditional marketing channels, such
as broadcast media, is that it inadvertently encourages companies to seek out and
exploit new channels, such as promoting peer and viral marketing, which may in fact
prove more damaging.
This is why it is right to consider self-regulation, which can have advantages over
traditional forms of regulation if a business sector is willing to be open and decisive in
its actions. Benefits can include the ability to adapt rules more quickly to market
conditions. In theory, this could be a key advantage in relation to a sector such as
marketing, which is able to innovate and can respond fast to new opportunities and
shopping generation QP
But if a business sector is evasive or unwilling to engage, the opposite happens. The
history of controls on marketing to children in the UK has been a chequered one. All
too often, codes have been a measure used by industry to evade regulation by
government, but which has been too little, too late. The NCC endorses the view of
the World Health Organization that self-regulation of food and related marketing is
not effective in protecting children and that it favours – and will encourage - a co-
regulatory model (88). This implies that self-regulatory codes are underpinned by a
process of formal approval.
Young people have a distinct and positive set of approaches to consumer life.
However, by nature of their age, development and relative inexperience, they also
possess a set of vulnerabilities that call for protection.
It has been said that children are getting older younger, though few would argue this
to be so to any great extent in terms of biological or physical development. What is
easy to say is that what has changed is the environment in which children find
themselves. In a more saturated, commercial context than previous generations, the
children in our survey want to mimic the freedoms and opportunities of the adult
world, as well as to fit in with the identities embraced by their peers.
A consumer world that was traditionally closed off to them is now visible and
reflected around them. The consumer freedoms that children are encouraged to aspire
to are simply reflections of the adult world around them. If it is true that many of us
as adults watch too much TV, care about possessions and fail to take exercise, who
should be surprised if the next generation chooses to act in a similar way? At root, it is
entry to the commercialised society that is growing younger, rather than our children
that are growing older.
And yet, as consumers, children live on a knife edge. When commercial opportunity
encourages it, society expects them to behave as adults. When circumstances change,
they are treated as irresponsible minors. As a result, children are left poorly served,
commercially abused and feeling as if they are treated as second-class citizens.
It is natural and inevitable that children should be active as participants in consumer
life. However, the way that consumer life operates for children is surely open to
adaptation and improvement.
The questionnaire was included in the CAPI Kid’s Bus survey of 983 children by
RSGB Omnibus, conducted over October and November 2004.
Here are some comments that other young people have made about the things they own or
want to buy. Please say how much you agree or disagree with each comment. Remember, it is
YOUR point of view that we are interested in.
...I feel that other kids have more stuff than I do
...I wish my family could afford to buy me more of what I want
...I wish my parents gave me more money to spend
...I care a lot about my games and other stuff
...I like clothes with popular labels
…When I buy something the brand name is important to me
...It doesn't matter to me what kind of car my family has
…I like shopping and going to the shops
...I wish my parents earned more money
...I like collecting the latest things that others are collecting
...People buy things they don’t really need
…There have been times when I feel I have been ripped off when I’ve bought something myself
…I like watching adverts.
01: Agree a lot
02: Agree a little bit
03: I don't agree or disagree
04: Disagree a little bit
05: Disagree a lot
shopping generation QR
The qualitative research was conducted by Opinion Leader Research over March and
April 2005. There were 6 participants in each group and they were held in London
and Birmingham, split according to socio-economic group, gender and age.
içÅ~íáçå= = dÉåÇÉê== ^ÖÉ= = pçÅáçJÉÅçåçãáÅ=Öêçìé=
London Female 14-16 BC1
London Male 11-13 C2D
Birmingham Female 11-13 C2D
Birmingham Male 14-16 BC1
Ice-breaker – Paired introductions - say what they like to do on Saturdays
How have you got on with keeping your diaries?
What did your friends and families think of what you were doing?
Each participant to talk about their diary in turn – not page by page just a summary
What do you think is the most interesting thing in your diary?
As a group:
• Did anything surprise you about what you wrote down?
• Did you learn anything from keeping this diary?
• What do you think about the different ways people try to sell to you?
Thinking about the different encounters you have with selling, did any of them make you feel:
• Stressed • Depressed
• Annoyed • Excited
• Happy • Important
After all participants have talked through their diaries:
• Having heard from everyone in the group what do you think is the most interesting
thing to come out overall?
• Is there anything you think is quite positive or negative that you’ve seen or heard?
Thinking about when you go out to spend money and buy things – what makes you feel good
about that? – what makes you feel bad?
• Do you feel you have enough money to spend?
• What happens when you don’t have enough money? How does this make you feel?
• Are there things that you have influenced your parents to buy? – What?
• How do you influence them?
• What happens if your parents don’t agree? – How does that make you feel?
• What do you think of the media in general?
• What do you think of the magazines that you read? Do you feel they are aimed
specifically at you?
• If I said the word ‘shopaholic’ to you, what comes to mind?
• Do you know anyone you think might be a shopaholic? – Do you think it’s a good or
bad thing to be a shopaholic?
• Do you have any ideas as to why people might become shopaholics?
Do you think that you might ever become a shopaholic? – why/why not?
Thinking about your experiences as a consumer i.e. someone who buys things, have there ever
been times when you’ve had a bad experience or been let down when you’ve bought
• Have you ever complained about anything? – What happened? Were you happy or not
with the outcome?
• If you’ve never complained – has there been a time when you would have liked to but
didn’t? – Why didn’t you?
• Who would you complain to if you had a complaint?
• Do you feel that young people are treated differently by people/companies?
• Has there been a time when someone has made you feel bad in someway or put you
down and you’ve felt it’s because you’re younger? – Look back through your diary if
What we’re going to do now is work together to try to come up with some guidelines for
companies on how to sell to younger people. For example there are already guidelines for
things like cigarettes and alcohol. Here’s a list of things I want you to consider/discuss and then
we’ll come up with a list of guidelines that we want them to adhere to.
• Any things that people shouldn’t sell to children/young people? – things that are bad for them?
• Appropriates/best ways to sell to young people?
• Rules that should apply?
What’s the one thing you found most interesting/revealing about the session? - Any other
comments? Have you enjoyed the session?
Postcards – Write down one bit of advice on how companies should improve the way
they sell to young people
shopping generation QT
1 National Statistics, www.statistics.gov.uk
2 David Derbyshire, The average age for a child to have a first mobile is now 8, 20/04/2005
http://news.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2005/04/20/nmob20.xml, accessed 18 May 2005
3 Childnet International, Children & Mobile Phones: an agenda for action, www.childnet-int.org, accessed
18 May 2005
4 ChildWise Monitor Trends Report 2005, www.childwise.co.uk/trends.htm, accessed 25 May 2005
5 LSE, Net Baffled’ Parents May Reduce Children’s Job and Education Prospects,
www.lse.ac.uk/collections/children-go-online/UKCGOPressReleaseApril05.pdf accessed May 24 2005
6 ChildWise, Monitor Trends Report 2005, www.childwise.co.uk/trends.htm, accessed 25 May 2005
7 Liz Hollis, We know what she wants, Guardian, November 06 2002,
www.guardian.co.uk/parents/story/0,,834350,00.html, accessed 25 March 2005
8 British Association of Toy Retailers, 2003 figures, www.batr.co.uk/marketing/sales.htm, accessed 18 May 2005
9 Juliet B. Schor, Born to Buy: the commercialised child and the new consumer culture, Scribner, 2004, p19
10 See reference 9, p 131
11 Liz Hollis, We know what she wants, Guardian, November 06 2002,
www.guardian.co.uk/parents/story/0,,834350,00.html, accessed 25 March 2005
12 Survey of 16-24 year olds, UK Potential for Mobile Payments
www.mrweb.com/drno/frmemail/article4027.htm accessed 7 June 2005
13 Jules Shropshire and Sue Middleton, Small Expectations; learning to be poor, Joseph Rowntree
15 Felicity Lawrence, Revealed: how food firms target children, The Guardian, Thursday May 27, 2004
16 See reference 9.
17 Equally, when we talk of ‘parents’, we include guardians and other adults that have a responsibility of care.
18 2003, Kogan Page
19 Nickeodeon study in 2001, cited in Juliet B. Schor, Born to Buy: the commercialised child and the new
consumer culture, Scribner, 2004
20 Younger children have less money to spend than their older counterparts but are also, the keenest on
collecting the latest thing (with over two in three of 10-12s reporting that they enjoy collecting) and the
most likely to care about games ‘and stuff’. Reliant on family money, the younger age-groups (10-12 and
13-15) are also the more envious. They are more likely to feel that other kids have more stuff and to wish
their parents earned more and gave them more to spend than the older age-groups.
21 In our survey, 10-12 year-olds are evenly split over the importance of brand names when they buy
something (46 per cent agree, 42 per cent disagree). By the time they reach teenhood, the majority are
keen on brands (57 per cent of 13-15 year-olds and 56 per cent of 16-17 year-olds). These findings tally
with Mintel research that the younger age-groups (5 to 9) go more for ‘character-led merchandising’ but
by the time they’re reaching the upper end of the 10-14 year-old bracket, fashion-led clothing brands take
precedence ‘as image assumes greater importance.’ Mintel, What really matters to children aged 11-14,
for Chartered Institute of Marketing www.cim.co.uk/mediastore/research_mintel_whatmatters.pdf
accessed 7 June 2005
22 Children's Pocket Money Creates Over £70m Spending Power, Halifax Pocket Money Survey 2004,
www.hbosplc.com/media/pressreleases/articles/halifax/2004-07-24-00.asp accessed 18 May 2005
23 Wall’s Monitor, cited in Marketing To Children Research,
www.cim.co.uk/mediastore/research_mintel_populationtrends.pdf accessed 18 May 2005
24 Around one in seven have two jobs, and one in 20, three or more jobs. Paper rounds and baby-sitting
are the most popular for children over ten. One in four children age 11-12 who work have newspaper
delivery jobs. It is, though, illegal to employ a child under the age of 13 – or age 13 – 16 before 7am or
after 7pm or during school hours. Jules Shropshire and Sue Middleton, Small Expectations; learning to be
poor, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 1999
25 Mintel, What really matters to children aged 11-14, for Chartered Institute of Marketing
http://www.cim.co.uk/mediastore/research_mintel_whatmatters.pdf accessed 24 May 2005
26 Children's Pocket Money Creates Over £70m Spending Power, Halifax Pocket Money Survey 2004,
27 See reference 26
28 There are also more adverts per hour in the US than in the UK. Sue Dibb, A spoonful of sugar, Television
Food Advertising aimed at children; an international comparative survey, Consumers International, 1996
29 For US data, see reference 9. The UK figures do not add to 100, as children were able to respond “I
don’t agree or disagree” and “Don’t know”. Juliet Shor’s studies were conducted in 2000-2001 and 2002-
2003, that is, the data combines two surveys at different points of time and in two discrete locations.
There is a time lag between the US and UK studies, so if there is increasing commercialism, this may inflate
the UK figures compared to the US.
30 Elton John 'in debt’, June 28, 1999, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/your_money/380344.stm and
Sir Elton's £30m spending spree, Wednesday, 15 November, 2000
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/1024745.stm both accessed 13 June 2005
31 One in Three Britons Addicted to Their Mobile,
www.aberdareonline.co.uk/content/public/forum/message.asp?forum=1&ID=30300 accessed 18 May 2005
32 Consumer Issues & Youth: A Research Report into Best Practice in Consumer Education Targeting
Young Australians www.consumersonline.gov.au/downloads/youth_jul2002.pdf accessed 18 May 2005
33 Are you a shopaholic? Monday, November 29, 2004. CBBC http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-
/cbbcnews/hi/newsid_4040000/newsid_4045400/4045427.stm accessed 18 March 2005
34 Professor Sonia Livingstone, London School of Economics and Political Science
35 UK Children Go Online: Final report of key project findings www.lse.ac.uk/collections/children-go-
online/UKCGOfinalReport.pdf accessed 18 May 2005
36 UK Children Go Online: Final report of key project findings www.lse.ac.uk/collections/children-go-
online/UKCGOfinalReport.pdf accessed 18 May 2005
37 John Angel & Julia Hornle, Kid Spenders – How to tap into the Children Market? Electronic Business
Law, December 2004, p6
38 She signed up using her Solo credit card, but once her credit card and correct address were entered,
she used an incorrect age, saying that she was 21-years-old. A range of banks supply debit cards to
minors, and some provide Visa Electron and Solo cards to children as young as 11 years old.
39 This code is in need of tightening, something recognised by the industry following a government
sponsored review in 2004.
shopping generation QV
40 The European Association of Communications Agencies’ (EACA), for example, has guidelines on
advertising to children, which state that “no appeal to a charity should be unfairly used to pressurise
children or create a feeling of guilt in them.” In the scrapbooks collected by children in our research, this is
exactly what one charity, the Dogs Trust in an advert in TVHits magazine, achieved. “This picture uses
language making you feel sympathetic towards the dogs and guilty if you don’t sponsor a dog.” 11-13
year old girl, C2D.
41 The Portman Group code deserves credit for relating controls to a whole range of ‘material and
activities’: websites, sponsorship, press releases, branded merchandise, advertorials and sampling.
42 UK Children Go Online: Final report of key project findings www.lse.ac.uk/collections/children-go-
online/UKCGOfinalReport.pdf accessed 18 May 2005
43 European Heart Network, The Marketing of Unhealthy Food to Children in Europe: a report of Phase 1
of the ‘children, obesity and associated avoidable chronic diseases’ project, Brussels, 2005.
44 The clustering of responses in relation to this follows the work in the USA of Juliet B. Schor, Born to
Buy: the commercialised child and the new consumer culture, Scribner, 2004
45 Middleton, S., Ashworth, K. and Walker, R., Family Fortunes: pressure son parents and children in the
1990s, Child Poverty Action Group, 1994
46 Jules Shropshire and Sue Middleton, Small Expectations; learning to be poor, Joseph Rowntree
47 Up Front, This Much I know, interview with Camilla Batmanghelidjh by Hilly James, OM Magazine,
Observer, 10 August 2003, p8
48 See reference 9.
49 Respondents were divided into the ‘brand aware’ and the ‘less brand aware’ according to their answers
to the brand-related statements. The ‘brand aware’ were those who agreed that they like popular labels
and care about brands when they buy and who disagreed that they don’t care about the kind of car the
family has. Those who agreed with all three statements ‘I feel that other kids have more stuff than I do’, ‘I
wish my family could afford to buy me more of what I want’ and ‘I wish my parents gave me more money
to spend’ were considered ‘dissatisfied’ and those who disagreed with all three statements would be
‘satisfied’. It is important to note that the numbers of those who are ‘less brand aware’ are relatively small,
so that conclusions in relation to this group should be treated with caution.
50 See reference 9.
51 Office for National Statistics data, quoted in Jacky Ashley, It is adults who have made teenagers’ lives a
misery, The Guardian, Thursday, February 3, 2005
52 www.mentalhealth.org.uk/ accessed 20 May 2005
53 Statistics taken from the Mind website, www.mind.org.uk/ accessed 20 May 2005
54 www.childline.org.uk/ accessed 20 May 2005
55 Cited in Jacky Ashley, It is adults who have made teenagers’ lives a misery, The Guardian, Thursday,
February 3, 2005
56 Girls, boys, gangs, drink, exams, sex, clubs, drugs, texting ..., Laura Barton, The Guardian 16.3.05
57 Teenage girls 'depressed by modern life'
http://www2.netdoctor.co.uk/news/index.asp?id=117900&D=24&M=2&Y=2005 In a separate Bliss survey
in January 2005, 40 per cent of teenage girls have considered plastic surgery. Two-thirds of the 2000 girls,
average age 14, said the pressure came from celebrities with perfect bodies and boys. 40 per cent of teens
want plastic surgery, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/4147961.stm both accessed 18 May 2005
58 Dohnt, Hayley K.; Tiggemann, Marika, Peer influences on body dissatisfaction and dieting awareness in
young girls, British Journal of Developmental Psychology, March 2005, vol. 23, no. 1, pp. 103-116(14),
British Psychological Society
59 See reference 9, p65
60 NCC press release, www.ncc.org.uk/cgi-bin/kmdb10.cgi/-load58779_viewcurrent.htm
61 Children's Pocket Money Creates Over £70m Spending Power, Halifax Pocket Money Survey 2004,
www.hbosplc.com/media/pressreleases/articles/halifax/2004-07-24-00.asp accessed 18 May 2005
62 Economic and Social Research Council’s http://www.tsa.uk.com/YCSC/RB/TSA_RB_10.pdf accessed 18 May 2005
63 Family Spending: a report on the 2003-04 Expenditure and Food Survey, 2004 Edition, Office for
National Statistics, HMSO. Note that, due to rounding to the nearest 10p, sums do not total correctly.
64 It is not easy to bring together such a range of services. One model that has is James Brindle High
School in North Staffordshire. It offers a ‘multi agency centre’, which is a room in the school for
professionals from all these services. Children can drop in over lunch – or set another time to come in.
They are welcomed with an informal background of soft sofas, stereo, other young people.
65 David Mason, ASBOs - use and abuse, New Law Journal, 28 January 2005
66 Jaap Doek, Chairman of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, cited in John Carvel, Britain
violates rights of child say UN, Guardian, November 29 2004,
67 4Children, http://www.4children.org.uk/uploads/information/HowWhenWhat_postcard1.pdf accessed
May 25 2005
68 4Children, http://www.4children.org.uk/uploads/information/4ChildrenManifesto.pdf accessed May 25 2005
69 David Simpson DJ (MC), An Introduction to Sentencing in the Youth Court, lecture, Kings College
London, October 2004.
70 Ofcom Consumer Panel, Consumers and the Communications Market: where we are now, May 2005, p57
71 Stephen Kline, Fast Food, Sluggish Kids: Moral Panics and Risky Lifestyles, ESRC / AHRB Cultures of
Consumption Working Paper, No. 9, p7, May 2004
72 When asked to say which is the most important factor influencing children’s desires, according to the
Chartered Institute of Marketing, 38 per cent of adults pick advertising, 34 per cent say friends, 14 per
cent parents and 9 per cent schools. Chartered Institute of Marketing, Drop in the number of adults
supporting restrictions on advertising to children, 11 November 2002,
73 LSE, Net Baffled’ Parents May Reduce Children’s Job and Education Prospects,
www.lse.ac.uk/collections/children-go-online/UKCGOPressReleaseApril05.pdf accessed May 24 2005
74 UK Children Go Online: Final report of key project findings www.lse.ac.uk/collections/children-go-
online/UKCGOfinalReport.pdf accessed 18 May 2005
75 David Buckingham & contributers, The Media Literacy of Children and Young People: a review of the
research literature, Centre for the Study of Children, for Ofcom, 2005
76 There are some emerging tools to assist parents. www.commonsensemedia.org acts as a family
friendly review site for a range of products from books to games to film – one of a growing band of
reputation systems for consumers. www.parentscentre.gov.uk is a government sponsored website that
focuses on issues facing parents, although it has little to say about commercial pressures.
77 See reference 9, p184
78 David Buckingham & contributers, The Media Literacy of Children and Young People: a review of the
research literature, Centre for the Study of Children, for Ofcom, 2005
shopping generation RN
79 Other agencies have a concern around financial capability (the Financial Services Authority), food skills
(Food Standards Agency), sustainable consumption (Environment Agency) and consumer education more
widely (Office of Fair Trading). Local authority trading standards, such as in Staffordshire, also have a track
record in promoting young consumer skills. Each regulator has a strategic responsibility, but each also has
far too limited resources to promote action and too little expertise in delivery, compared to the mainstream
81 www.bzga.de/bzga_stat.pdf/33230001.pdf accessed 18 May 2005
82 Abraham Maslow was one of the first to popularise the concept of satisfying human needs, and a
number of models relating life satisfaction to economic life have since been developed. In Australia a team
from Deakin University in Melbourne have constructed a National Index of Subjective Well-being – the first
being carried out in Spring 2001. In the same year, The Well-being of Nations was published. Devised by
American consultant Robert Prescott-Allen, it is a country-by-country index of human and eco-system well-
being. An excellent overview of well-being models and a pilot framework of indicators for young people is
set out in Nic Marks, Hetan Shah and Andrea Westall, The Power and Potential of Well-being Indicators:
measuring young people’s well-being in Nottingham, New Economics Foundation, 2004.
83 Securing the Future – delivering UK sustainable development strategy, HMSO, March 2005, p23
84 See reference 9, p 185
85 Both recommendations are drawn from the work of John Angel & Julia Hornle, Kid Spenders – What
the Law should be doing for them! Electronic Business Law, March, 2005, pp 10-12. On childrens’
awareness of privacy, the Federal Trade Commission in the USA has produced an interesting website
designed for children: http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/edcams/kidzprivacy/
86 Details on this are set out in NCC’s 2004 recommendations on the control of advertising of less healthy
food to children. Sue Dibb, Responsible food advertising to children: NCC proposals to Ofcom, 2004
87 http://education.guardian.co.uk/elearning/story/0,,1437649,00.html accessed 18 May 2005
88 Speech by Le Gales-Camus to World Federation of Advertisers, 30 November 2004.