A study by the National Consumer Council claims to have uncovered a divided society where the influence of adverts is exerted unevenly across social groups. The authors found that deprived children are more likely to watch commercial television – as well as programmes made for an older audience.
This means they are exposed to more ads – and the ones they do watch may not be appropriate for their age group.
The report found: “Just over half of children – 51% – from disadvantaged areas think that ‘when you grow up, the more money you have, the happier you are’. Similarly, almost half of children – 47% – in deprived areas would ‘rather spend my time buying things than doing almost anything else’.”
By contrast only 23% of youngsters from affluent families believed that money was the key to happiness and that shopping was a good way to spend time.
The NCC report, called Watching, Wanting and Wellbeing: Exploring the Links, added: “These stark variations show that in some households the screen appears to be ever-present, particularly during mealtimes. In disadvantaged areas, for example, children are six times more likely to watch TV during the weekday evening meal.”
The report could lead to Government action to extend controls on the advertising of junk food and other products – perhaps including a ban through to the 9pm watershed.