The Blog

No More Ads Pestering Kids to Buy, Buy, Buy

We need to create a situation where kids don't constantly have their minds polluted by money-grabbing ad-men.

Today, in Britain, a campaign began to do what a number of countries have already done: ban advertising directed at children.

Why do the remarkable range of signatories we got for this letter - from across the political spectrum and from a host of relevant experts - believe, as I passionately do, that such a ban should be brought in? Simple: Kids of four or five years old have no defence against adverts. It's hard for parents to shield children from all the advertising directed in the home and virtually impossible elsewhere, so we need to be responsible enough to ban the ads in the first place. That's the point that is undeniable about our campaign: that it just cannot be right to let advertisers effectively brainwash tiny children.

The unanswerable basic reason why our campaign is surely bang-on-target is, we think, why we are already getting such a strong take-up: See for instance this remarkably-supportive article, in the sometimes-rather-reactionary second-best-selling British newspaper, the Daily Mail.

We've also been all over the broadcast media here today, and have already attracted some interesting responses. In particular, the Advertising Standards Authority (the ASA) responded to our piece on BBC1 Breakfast this morning by saying that they were willing to listen to our concerns - but by stating that ads that are harmful to children are already in effect prohibited.

But we say: anyone who believes that the ads currently relentlessly targetting kids - ads that the ASA allows to run with impunity, at present - are harmless to kids, probably also believes in the tooth fairy...

We do welcome the ASA's offer of dialogue, which we expect to take up, but, at the present time the ASA looks about as robust as the Press Complaints Commission (which, thankfully, is it seems about to enter the dustbin of history), in terms of preventing harm to our kids.

Self-regulation, which is in effect most of what we have in Britain at present, is not enough. A legislative ban is what is needed, to stop these pollutants of the mental environment (i.e. ads) wrecking lives that have barely yet begun. If it's good enough for the Nordic countries, then let it be good enough for us.

The most common argument against our proposal that we've heard so far is that parents should be responsible enough to control their children and not just buy them whatever they get pestered to buy by the ad-men. But this argument really won't wash: it isn't enough for YOU to be a responsible parent. Your kid will still be exposed to vast amounts of consumerist drivel - through peer pressure from other kids. There is a kind of analogue to 'herd immunity' needed here: Everyone needs to be vaccinated, not just the few with strong-minded parents. Likewise: everyone needs to be free of ads while their minds develop to a state whereupon they can

discriminate between ads, as adults do.

In any case, as I already implied earlier, good parenting alone isn't ever going to be enough. However good a parent you are, you can't control the billboards your kids pass as they walk down the street, you can't control what other parents' kids flaunt or demand... We need to create a situation where kids don't constantly have their minds polluted by money-grabbing ad-men. Please back our proposal: goto and sign the petition.

I'm the co-founder of @LeaveRKidsAlone. If you agree with what I've said here, then join us. Go to our website, and take it from there. We are determined to #BanAdsAimedAtKids during the next UK Parliament...