• By Kevin Mount
  • Posted on Tuesday 26th February, 2008

Lining up the ills of the material world

Six out of ten adults think adverts for unhealthy food targeted at children should be banned, and seven out of ten believe that violent video games are damaging children’s behavior.These and other similar lifestyle findings from a national opinion poll sample are published today by The Children’s Society as part of the publicity campaign accompanying the progress of the UK’s the first independent national inquiry into what constitutes a good childhood. Conducted by a market research organization, Gfk NOP, the poll, sheds light on some of the obstacles to healthy lifestyles for children, as adults perceive them.Other findings relating to play spaces and diet are also published today but the key message, according to The Children’s Society, is the damaging effect of the so-called “commercialization” of childhood. Many who took part in the poll highlighted the dangers to well-being posed by materialism, commercial pressures and competitiveness.Professor Philip Graham, Emeritus Professor at The Institute of Child Psychiatry, who has been leading the lifestyle research, notes that “one factor that may be leading to rising mental health problems is the increasing degree to which children and young people are preoccupied with possessions, such as the latest in fashionable clothes and electronic equipment”.Other themes examined since The Good Childhood Inquiry was launched in 2006 have dealt with friends, family and learning. Results on two more - health and values - are to be published in the coming months. Launched in the wake of the UNICEF report which last year indicated that the well-being of children in the UK was worse than that of many other European nations [see for example, Wealth over well-being: UNICEF survey highlights challenges] the Inquiry is designed to provoke open debate on the nature of childhood in the 21st century, by compiling the views of adults and children on the range of concerns. Survey findings of the kind published today will be taken into consideration alongside analysis of research in preparing a report that aims to be robust enough to influence practice and policy.The panel of experts responsible for compiling fof publication next year is chaired by Professor Judith Dunn, (Institute of Psychiatry) and comprises Children’s Commissioner of England Professor Sir Albert Aynsely-Green, Dr Muhammed Adbul Bari (Muslim Council of Britain), Shami Chakrabarti (Liberty), Jim Davis (The Children’s Society), Professor Philip Graham (Institute of Child Health), Professor Kathleen Kiernan (University of York), Professor Lord Richard Layard (London School of Economics), Professor Stephen Scott (Institute of Psychiatry), The Rt Rev. Tim Stevens (Bishop of Leicester), Professor Kathy Sylva (University of Oxford) and Professor Barbara Maughan (Institute of Psychiatry). Adults can get involved in the Inquiry by visiting the ‘hundreds and thousands’ campaign and sharing their childhood memories. Children and young people can log on to the Children’s Society mylife site.

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