UK Ad Body Refutes 'Myth' of 'Toxic Childhood'

27 January 2009

LONDON: Britain's Advertising Association – an umbrella body representing advertisers, agencies and media owners – yesterday counterattacked the "myth" of "toxic childhood" – a phrase that entered the English lexicon in 2006 with the publication of a book of that title.

Toxic Childhood voiced alarm over the alleged loss of childhood caused by modern consumerist lifestyles.

Such lifestyles, claimed author Sue Palmer, were severely compromising children's healthy development and ability to learn – a charge later dismissed by Ed Balls, secretary of state for the government's Department for Children, Schools and Families, as "scaremongering".

He did not, however, refute the book's accusation as inaccurate, presumably lacking the data to do so.

Enter the Advertising Association, which retained Q Research to analyse data provided by Youth TGI, a biannual study that assesses long-term attitudinal trends amongst children and young people.

Based on a representative national sample, Youth TGI surveys six thousand young Britons in the 7-19 age group. Data from this survey was then analysed by Q Research and the end result passed to a panel of government-appointed experts.

Unsurprisingly, the report delivers everything the AA could have hoped for …

  • Children's values have not just remained constant but strengthened. They set great store by friendship, love, helping others and leading a healthy life. They embrace the commercial world but do not see materialism as a means to wellbeing.
  • Moreover, fewer of them are "fashion slaves", a high proportion like spending time with their families and are happy with their looks.
  • The report suggests the internet, mobile phones, MP3s, TV and newspapers have all helped improve children's wellbeing.
Says AA chief executive Baroness Peta Buscombe: "The picture that emerges is that aspects of the commercial world are important net promoters of children's wellbeing, helping to promote more positive thinking and counterbalancing negative pressures on children's lives."

As to the controversial book's use of the term 'toxic childhood', Buscombe dismissed this as "emotive sloganeering" [a phrase that equally applies to effective ad headlines the world over].

Data sourced from BrandRepublic (UK); additional content by WARC staff