Motherhood and media coverage – surely not all negative?

I’ve just posted this advert on the website of Mothers’ Union in the Diocese of Winchester. Obviously my involvement as a Trustee means I’ve known it’s been coming up for some while, and yes, I’m expecting to be there.

But, reading the advert provided by Dr Oluyinka Esan, the conference organiser, I’m wondering if the dialogue could get swamped in negativity?

As I’ve raised before, and as the Bailey Report highlights, there are considerable problems experienced by parents (not just mothers) because of the pressure exerted via the media (and particularly advertising) on children.

But, there must surely be plenty of good or useful things that “media coverage” (which I suspect is different from purely adverts, web access and such like) does for parents. The question is can we identify clearly what they are?

I’m going to throw out a few positive bullet points here, uncertain as to whether they fit the conference criteria or not, but would appreciate your thoughts (and also your company at the conference!)

  • The tools of online websites and ordering for so many daily consumables, children’s clothes etc, has made the more thankless tasks of parenting less time consuming – used wisely it can mean more time with children and as family;
  • I think media coverage of women, via things like news stories (whether they write them, or are the story) shows them increasingly able to multi-task productively for the benefit of work (income), family, and society – I’m thinking of someone like Ruth Gledhill active as journalist, and reflecting on Motherhood;
  • For children there are positive (or at least interesting) ways in which forms of media are being used to aid their education: this week my son’s GCSE English teacher is getting the kids to hand in their poems anonymously via a blog, to encourage peer discussion of their work without ‘personality issues’ coming into play. Once it’s working properly, it sounds like a useful development in the use of blogs.

Surely there must be more than that?

Families First in Winchester for Mothers’ Union


I’m thawing out in the car after an excellent start to the Mothers Union charity stall at Winchester Cathedral Christmas Market.

The team of volunteers are keeping warm chatting to the many folk who are passing by. We are giving away FREE ‘Families First’ the great magazine that supports family life, and this issue features The Nativity series to be seen on TV next week. Other free gifts include post-it notes, and notepads that we have been donated.

Every ‘Families First’ also comes stuffed with our local magazine ‘Archway’ and information cards about the Bye Buy Childhood Campaign.

If you are in Winchester over the next two days please come and visit us – you might even get a chocolate or a Christmas cracker!

Who is buying our children’s childhood

With today’s news that MU Chief Executive Reg Bailey will head up the government review regarding the issue, by continuing to take the well balanced view that he’s come to be respected for in Mothers’ Union, I’ve started to reflect again on the subject I was already focussing on last week.

It would seem that some products and marketing techniques probably do need to be legislated or regulated against. But, it is also important to raise the awareness of parents and others of the pressures they unwittingly place on children’s well being by the purchases they make, whether they are responding to marketing and pester power. This is why I believe the Bye Buy Childhood Report is so good and the Mothers’ Union campaign so important, because it’s trying to create a balanced view of the issues involved.

So in case it’s any use to the world at large as interest in this issue snowballs, here is the presentation I gave last week in my local church to get people thinking about the issues. It is a Powerpoint file which can be downloaded from here: Who is buying our childrens childhood. It should read with it’s notes pages so you get the gist of what I said, and what you could say – because you’re more than welcome to use it. I hope I made the questions open enough to simply get people thinking but if you don’t think so, feel free to change them, and let me know the alternatives you suggest.

A friend using CNet YouTube Downloader enabled me to use four YouTube video’s of adverts during the presentation.

I would hope that this sort of material would be appropriate for a PTA or Church discussion or parenting group – what do you think?

Mothers’ Union Chief Exec to review commercialisation of children

On Friday I posted some responses and questions that came from my recent presentation about issues raised by theMothers’ Union Bye Buy Childhood Campaign.

On Sunday, The Telegraph ran a story announcing that the Mothers’ Union Chief

Reg Bailey - Chief Exec Mothers' Union (photographed Romsey 2007)

Executive, Reg Bailey will be heading up a government-commissioned review of issues surrounding the commercialisation and sexualisation of children:

Mr Bailey’s review will gather evidence of ways children are having unfair commercial pressure put on them or being “prematurely sexualised” by retailers amid protests over high-heeled shoes and provocative underwear aimed at girls as young as 10.

This news has been confirmed today to me in emails from staff at Mary Sumner House, via the Department of Education website, and it featured on BBC News. I’ve even had visitors call round at my house just to make sure I know!

The Department of Education’s website states that

The review will look at the following themes:

  • risks of harm and barriers to parenting
  • principles – what is acceptable in this area and what is not
  • consumer voice
  • corporate social responsibility.

I’ve met Reg Bailey several years running at Mothers’ Union conferences and other events, and know how passionate he’s been for years about making a real, but realistic difference to the problems that some products or their marketing cause. I’m sure he’ll take a balanced view and make an excellent job of this important task.

What are your top tips for avoiding the impact of ads on your family?

A 'Fairy Liquid' advert in a Bob the Builder Mag - this formed part of my Ethics module project on the Commercialisation of Childhood

Mothers’ Union are working on their commericalisation of childhood campaign and will soon be producing a resource to help families understand and navigate the commercialisation of childhood. But they want the practical experiences of the impact advertising has on the children in your family, and how you handle them, so that they’re not just spouting theory, but offering practical, lived out ideas that work and will help stop others feeling overwhelmed by the impact of the commercial world!

So what are your

  • top tips for dealing (in a practical way) with the influence of marketing and advertising on the children in your family; and/or
  • Scenarios when you or the children in your family are particularly influenced by marketing or advertising?

Mothers’ Union are looking for ideas to be submitted by the end of July, and I am personally hoping this material will appear well before the pre-Christmas spending spree to beat the new VAT rate in the New Year. If you use the ‘comment’ facility on this blog, I will pass all ideas to our Social Policy Unit at Mothers’ Union.