Ban all advertising aimed at young children

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How on earth did we come to this? We protect our children obsessively from every harm, we vet every carer, teacher or medic with whom they come into contact, we fret about their education, their development. Yet despite all this, one group, which in no way has their best interests at heart, has almost unfettered access.

We seem to take it for granted that advertisers and marketeers are allowed to groom even the youngest children. Before children have even developed a proper sense of their own identity, or learned to handle money, they are encouraged to associate status and self-worth with stuff, and to look to external things such as fame and wealth for validation. We're turning out legions of little consumers rather than young citizens who will value themselves for what they contribute to the society in which they live. If you inculcate the values of the consumer society from childhood then it's no wonder that those of the "big society" fail to take root. The one surely precludes the other.

We've reached this point so gradually that many of us have never questioned it. It's crept up on us in the 60 years since advertisers started to target the young and found that they could recruit them to a commercial assault on their parents. We've come to know it as pester power.

Like so many aspects of parenthood we only grasp the full reality when we experience it first-hand, in my case when my son, now six, mastered the TV remote. When he'd watched only the BBC's CBeebies he was largely shielded from the effects of advertising. Once he'd found the commercial channels, it was like watching the consumerist equivalent of crack take hold. The adverts would come on. A minute later there would invariably be a demand for something that had just been advertised – anything, so long as it wasn't pink and didn't involve fairies. Then there would be the tantrum when I said no; this from a boy who had never been prone to tantrums.

Many psychologists, child development

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