"It seems to me that children are constantly being bombarded by advertising and promotion of electronics, games consoles, tablets, phones etc. clothes and designer wear."

Mothers’ Union member, UK  (2)

"When you go on YouTube you get the little ads pop up in the bottom of a window of a clip or something that you watch. It’s subliminal I think at this stage and at an age where they can be very easily led to think that actually this is okay. Well, I personally don’t think it’s okay."

 Source: ComRes for Mothers’ Union

 There is evidence that advertising and marketing are still the backdrop to the lives of children and young people; and that the ‘commercialisation of childhood’ - the treatment of children as consumers and as an audience to be marketed to - remains an issue that concerns parents today (3).

In this latest study we have sought to assess the impact of both marketing (the positioning and general promotion and selling of products or services) and advertising (the targeted promotion of products or services to specific audiences) on children (4).

In 2010, the childhood market was estimated to be worth £99 billion in the UK . The toy industry is booming in the UK (5) with £2.6 million spent on traditional toys (6); and with children spending an average of £278 each on toys a year - one of the highest rates amongst OECD (The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries . Overall, spending on all marketing and advertising in the UK has risen steadily over the past 14 years (8).

There are significant levels of unease amongst British parents about the negative impact of the commercialisation of childhood, with four in five (80%) parents voicing concern. Both our quantitative (online surveys) and qualitative (face to face interviews and member questionnaires) research shows that the effects of commercialisation are all too real and were identified by both the parents and the children interviewed.

Only half (51%) of parents feel equipped to manage the influence of advertising and the commercial world on their family and there is a clear sense that the effects of the commercialisation of childhood are not restricted to children; but that ‘peer pressure’ impacts on parents just as much as the children to whom these products are marketed. Four in five (81%) British adults say that being exposed to the media, such as advertising, films, television and the internet, encourages their child to ask them to purchase things that they see advertised - leading to ‘pester power’.

The evolving nature of technology sparks considerable concern among British families, with parents highlighting a particular lack of control over their children’s use of mobile phones. In both aspects of the research, parents make a strong link between commercialisation and technology and often understand the two as intertwined.

Showing parents that there are measures in place to help and that they can influence and mediate their child’s exposure to the commercial world is an important response to the narrative of the commercialisation of childhood, as is empowering parents to feel that they have the capability to limit the influence of advertising and marketing. This report outlines our key concerns and puts forward new recommendations to ensure that best practice in this area does not go unnoticed, children are supported in developing resilience and effective support for parents is provided.


(2) Mothers’ Union member comment in response to question: How do you perceive the commercial world around us?

(3) Chapter 3 of the 2010 Bye Buy Childhood report outlines the impact of commercialisation on children, and highlights the impact it has on physical health, mental health and emotional well-being, values, education development and relationships -

(4) In addition to the ComRes interviews (outlined in footnote 1) ComRes carried out five in-depth interviews with parents and their children in London to understand in greater depth the realities of the commercialisation of childhood and the concomitant impact on family life.

(5) Bye Buy Childhood: A report into the commercialisation of childhood. Mothers’ Union, 2010.

(6) Sterling equivalent from a study on the competitiveness of the toy industry: Final report European Consortium for Sustainable Industrial Policy (ECSIP), 2013.

(7) Sterling equivalent from