Generation Media's response to UNICEF report

Among the general stories of doom and gloom last week, you may have read the article on the BBC website entitled ?Our children need time not stuff? inspired by a UNICEF report.
Publish date:

UNICEF’s report discusses the ways in which parents are trading quality time with their children for "cupboards full of expensive toys that aren't used".

The report in summary suggests that children in the UK are unhappier than their peers in Spain and Sweden, due to parents preferring materialism to family time, and goes on to call for a reform of advertising laws – namely banning TV ads to under-12s.

Is the UK really entering the thirteenth year of the 21st century with Victorian values – that children should be seen and not heard?..... with the threat that our society will pay the consequences otherwise?
Generation Media, the UK and Ireland’s number 1 specialist Kids and Youth Media planning and placement company has been debating the content of the report - here is what we think.

• Most toy manufacturers would argue that their products are not designed nor marketed as ‘purely pacifiers’ for the very young. Edutainment elements of toys have never been more prominent and their benefits in this field never so publicised. Did toys genuinely harbour more parent-child interaction 25 years ago than today – and did parents genuinely spend more time with their children a generation back?

• The cost of living in the UK is rising all the time, and with parents struggling to ‘keep up’, a ‘Catch 22’ situation has developed. With parents working the longest hours in Europe in order to provide for their families in an ‘expensive’ economy, they are said to be neglecting their children by spending less time interacting with them.

• Saliently, the UNICEF report discusses the lack of outdoor pursuits for children in comparison to their European peers. With British councils charging parents for access to playgrounds and selling off green space for developments, one has to ask what other options there are other than playing indoors. Toys and Games may not always be intellectually stimulating, but do overworked parents have any other choice?

• In fact, Generation Media’s research shows that children do spend a lot of time with parents in the home, playing with both the latest toys and traditional board games AND watching TV (both kids and grown-up shows). When a trip to a theme park costs upwards of £150 for a typical family, is it any wonder that watching TV is the 2nd most popular family activity amongst children?

• Perhaps, unfettered and un-moderated use of games consoles, personal computers and mobile phones can be seen as antisocial, but even this industry, always under the spotlight by the tabloid press, is addressing its responsibilities to promote family interaction: Apple’s Nursery Rhyme app for example allows a parent to record stories and rhymes for their children to interact with at a later time and a different location. And we can’t think of a better product to bring families together than Nintendo’s revolutionary Wii product.

• In conclusion would advertising reform really change Britain culturally? We don’t believe so. Generation Media’s analysis of advertising industry TV viewing research has shown that just 3% of adverts that kids see are for Toys & Games.

Generation Media do not doubt that the problems and issues highlighted in UNICEF’S report are valid and well meaning in scope….and have the best interests of our young at heart.

However blaming the advertising industry for the woes of society is a knee jerk reaction and based on the facts seems a misplaced one. Certainly our research does not correlate with the view that toys and games replace family time. In fact we believe they embellish this time in a modern 21st Century way.

And let’s not also forget the small number of families who were interviewed for this study, many of whom lived in East London- A statistically unreliable sample frame to condemn a nation of 20m hugely varied family units and 12m children 16 or under.

For more information please contact

Dean C Weller
MD Generation Media
0207 255 4650

Martin Doyle
Senior Manager Generation Media
0207 255 4650



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