Parents have no idea of the extent to which big business targets children through their use of new media, according a new book out in Britain. Consumer Kids, by Ed Mayo and Agnes Nairn, says that children are spending twice as much time in front of a TV or computer screen as in the classroom and have become a captive audience for marketers. The relentless marketing through websites and other media is an intrusion into children’s privacy and is destroying family life, the authors say.
They claim that while parents are waking up to the threat of sexual predators online, they have no concept of how business grooms their children for profit, recruiting them to promote products to their friends, and peppering their favourite websites with ads made to look like content. Personal information is routinely sought, often as a condition of getting access to a site.
On average, British children spend two hours, 36 minutes watching TV each day, one hour and 18 minutes on the internet, and one hour, 24 minutes on a games console. The screen is no longer just “an electronic babysitter,” say the authors, but “a whole electronic world” driven by profit. “The conventional paradigm of childhood as a stage that evolves around family and schools has had to change. It’s the commercial world that dominates the time of today’s children.”
Children’s bedrooms have become “high-tech media bedsits” with more gadgets than an entire family had a generation ago. About 90 per cent of teenagers have a TV in their bedroom, as do 60 per cent of five to six-year-olds. And the trend is not driven by income: 98 per cent of teens from deprived backgrounds have their own TV compared with 48 per cent from more affluent families. Two thirds of five and six-year-olds watch TV before school each day and a similar proportion watch it before bedtime.
More than a third of children have their own laptop or PC and two thirds have a games console. One quarter have access to the internet in their bedroom. The researchers estimate the size of the children’s consumer market at 99 billion pounds, up 33 per cent in the past five years, 12 billion pounds of which comes from pocket money. ~ Times Online, Jan 21