Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Children ‘damaged’ by materialism

Why do the media make statements of the blindingly obvious? Is it because politicians do (“this bombing / killing is unacceptable”), or because it is deemed to be the level at which the majority of the nation operates?

A recent poll asked the question: ‘Do you believe children's well-being is being damaged because childhood has become too commercial?’

And the startling result: 89% of adults in the 1,255 sample believed today's children were more materialistic than previous generations.

This, of course, proves nothing except that 1117 had opinion one way and 138 the other, though some may assert that this 11% is either stupid or ignorant. The effects of the advertising media upon children in the UK has been considerable, and the pressure upon parents to equip their children with the latest gadgets, trainers or ‘lifestyle accessory’ is a major contributory cause of financial hardship which may lead to family breakdown. Too many children are growing up in a world saturated with false models of happiness and being lured by unscrupulous adults into the dead-end street of consumerism.

Other revelations of this survey include:

69% agree violent video games make children more aggressive
90% believe Christmas advertising puts pressure on parents to spend more than they can afford
60% believe there should be a government ban on junk food advertising

The Archbishop of Canterbury, who is patron of the inquiry ‘Reflections on Childhood’, said: "Children should be encouraged to value themselves for who they are as people rather than what they own. The selling of lifestyles to children creates a culture of material competitiveness and promotes acquisitive individualism at the expense of the principles of community and co-operation."

Not quite a Sun headline, but the BBC managed to reproduce it without distortion.

According to psychologist Professor Philip Graham, Emeritus Professor of Child Psychiatry at the Institute of Child Health in London: "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; the latest in fashionable clothes and electronic equipment. Evidence both from the United States and from the UK suggests that those most influenced by commercial pressures also show higher rates of mental health problems."

Does this not just fill one with confidence about all our tomorrows? These children are our future doctors, teachers, entrepreneurs, company directors… and our church leaders and politicians.

At least, by then, ‘mental health problems’ will be perceived as a relatively normal state of affairs.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I concur with this view, hence I am, merrily, making up for the gaps in my childhood possessions now in middle age!

The processes endows me with the greatest of pleasure. ;-))

26 February 2008 at 11:18  
Blogger Tomrat247 said...

"69% agree violent video games make children more aggressive"
I wonder how many of those parents play video games themselves, or are themselves aggressive or neglect their children.

To all but a disproportionately small few video gaming is a cathartic experience, allowing the many to engage in activities virtually they would never be able to achieve in reality. To those few there is normally other cofactors that have largely been ignored for the hot-button that is video-game related violence; alcoholic or neglective parents, poor peer group choices, (real) child poverty...

26 February 2008 at 12:08  
Anonymous DocBud said...

This is complete and utter tosh. The statistics prove no more than that a majority know what answer they are suppose to give. If there is a problem, then it lies solely and squarely with parents and any attempt to pass the buck to unscrupulous capitalists is hokum.

We have had the decided pleasure of four offspring (the fifth is a special memory but we did not have the joy of bringing him to maturity). Not one ever successfully nagged for anything, they had video games (including Doom) but were restricted to play time and were brought up to understand that violence is not appropriate in personal relations (and is not to be willingly engaged in at an individual or national level), they were taught to be responsible for their own actions (and to have a healthy disrespect for authority).

The implication appears to be that grown adults cannot educate and influence the behaviour of immature young children. Well, we've never believed that, and we are proud of the young people our children have become (that is not to say they are what establishment types would wish, not being establishment types ourselves, but they do not harm others and seek to make the world a better place in whatever way they can and think fit).

26 February 2008 at 14:37  
Blogger Tomrat247 said...

I have to say I'm with the Doc on this your grace; it is the nature of modern Britain to blame the ruling principalities as they have so much control over our lives - but only control which we hand over.

In my work in a Christian Youth Group one of the many observations I've made about those children most at risk of mental health issues and child poverty is not that the parents are being actively destructive in their behaviour (though for certain, some are) but that they simply dont care or feel it is no longer their responsibility.

26 February 2008 at 15:02  
Anonymous hear o israel said...

your grace
i welcome the archbishops words, although i would add that somthing that is designed to be fascinating and immersive , must take over certain conscious functions of the brain , in effect we are learning how to do somthing in a video game , they are termed interactive after all. we have memories of a favourite film , so it is fair to assume that we will have memories , of machine gunning an enemy . the losses and knowledge required to win at certain kevel or progress onto the next , involve our senses and memory .

unlike a computer memory , we cannot just delete what we have learned , as our brain is an organic thing that grows and changes as we do.

now if like me you can remember , when being in the real world , was your source of emotional learning , one can only wonder what immersion into a fake, intense world of drama and violenece must do .

of course one can only expect the latest games console to soon be offering "better than real life" which so far has beeen the video games markets subtext.

i propose that "better than real life" is causing a form of mental health problem , it has been cleverly masked and surpressed of course, how can you argue against somthing you are led to believe makes you happy.

the intensity of the game , the child defeating for what at a micro level is a series of mathmatical calculations , that imagine for us , the challenge of a game is to defeat it , but in doing so you have to learn its structure and dynamic.

i find it interesting that as we are in era where pollution and enviromental damage are top of the agenda , no one questions if our minds are being polluted , and changed into somthing that reacts only to to what the gadget makers suggest we want , they may after all have been changing our programming into somthing that suits them better.

for some reason in the spiritual this also begs the question of "are we free" when we choose to spend our time in an artificial man made world.

26 February 2008 at 15:13  
Anonymous Sir Henry Morgan said...

In light of today's cultural norms, I suppose today's kids can consider themselves fortunate that I'm not in charge.

With modifications, I'd borrow heavily from sparta. The institutional sodomy would be out (assuming it really existed other than in the feverish imaginations of - -oh I like this - Spartaphobes), but pretty much everything else would be in there in one form or another. Certainly, not all survived their upbringing, but all could read and write, all grew up into well-behaved, well-disciplined young men and women (there was an Agoge equivalent for the girls, but they got to sleep at home every night). And basically, appearances to the contrary, the women were in charge - they just had the good sense to not let that show.

And for our women readers in particular: the women of Sparta had liberty and equality to an extent not matched anywhere in the world until our late 20th century.

Neither the men nor the women ever developed obesity either. Just a thought.

Study Sparta properly, and don't just believe the stupid stereotypes.

26 February 2008 at 15:19  
Blogger Snuffleupagus said...

Docbud and Tomrat
And when the adults themselves are victims of this materialism...? What then? His Grace is absolutely right.

You may have the confidence and sense of self-worth that is necessary to reject what is shoved down our throats at every turn, but others do not. And then they bring up children in that type of environment and the children do not stand a chance.

Yes, the parents are partly responsible. But not everyone is as clever, as resilient, and as determined as you.

Put some people in the middle of a war and they will come out fighting. Others will simply wither away. And your lack of sympathy for those who wither under such a barrage of ammunition is concerning.

26 February 2008 at 20:31  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It would be reasonably interesting to know if the survey was done on parents who actually have children.

I have 4

As two of them are now 17 and 19 respectively I can say with full confidence that they are NOT materialistic in any notable way. They both love and respect their parents whether they have always deserved their respect or not.

Its the parents fault, as it nearly always was, but maybe it is not so much now.

Materialism was with us far before TVs or multi-nationals. It comes from a combination of an individuals genetic make up and their upbringing.

If you dont like whats on the TV then the answer is easy.


It really is as simple as that. Or should I say it used to be.

We are fast reaching the point where turning off the kids TV will be judged to be serious child abuse. Especially if the children of all people or our murderously repressive divisive and authoritarian state claims it to be so.

Personally I am infinitely more worried about the amount of authoritarian socialist propaganda on the BBC especially, then mobile phone or toy advertising.

The only authoritarians allowed in my house are firstly my wife and then if needed myself.

As for video games causing violence the above applies even more so. I play what could be described as violent video games. However far from making myself more violent they have if any effect the opposite one.

Any depiction of war is horrible in the extreme, and should make a half normal young person NOT under any circumstances actually want to participate in a real one. If it did result in them wanting to, they are already beyond help.

So its IMO best they get their heads blow off ASAP and save the prison space and court time.

ATLAS shrugged and then felt good in the knowledge that he had done the best job he could. With better results then he possibly deserved.

27 February 2008 at 01:05  
Blogger Tomrat247 said...


I kind of made your point when I said that the kind of parenting (if any) I see in the swathes coming through our doors every Wednesday and Friday nights and both services Sundays; I am not unsympathetic to their plight; we explain to them in each of those meetings how they can shirk off those aspects of their character and adopt Christ's, and in many (sad) cases we also meet their physical and mental needs.

Sadly the only true thing we can do when it comes to the crunch is bring them to the point where the decision is theirs alone.

One such instance happened recently when we combined 2 youth groups - ours with a dwindling congregation but a church, and the other with a large number but none. It meant we had to transport a large number of children over a large distance but we knew it to be a worthwhile endevour.

One of the youth joining ours was 16 and had a child - the youth leaders had been working with her and helping her for over 2 years, but after frequent attempts to get through to her, varying levels of abuse and manipulation on her front and eventually catching her out in a very serious lie made us realise that we were having little if any impact on her.

When we laid it out to her she then followed it with a campaign of aggression towards the church; she took several of the younger, more impressionable members of the youth group along with her and the resultant end to the affair was us having to have her arrested and charged with criminal damage to the church and its leaders cars, assault and threats of assault on its members and religious abuse.

For me it was distressing as I had to make the call; for the 2 who had worked with her for years it was heart breaking.

I may seem cold and calculating but its because I've come to the realisation that I can only help so many and to whom God directs me; those who dont want to be helped I simply shake the dust off my feet and move on. You will tire yourself out if you dont draw a line somewhere.

Materialism is a finite character flaw - we all have it to some extent and is not merely constrained to issues with money or possessions. Bigger character and mental flaws are only reachable by God the Father through his Son. Amen.

27 February 2008 at 09:52  
Blogger Dave said...

""Children should be encouraged to value themselves for who they are as people rather than what they own."
Apart from a very few dedicated people who are willing to invest in a child's future there are no role models. When the cult of celebrity is encouraged by the powers that be in order to blind us to the reality of what is happening, how can we be surprised at how shallow, how materialisticly demanding yet morally docile our children turn out?
When adults, who should get a life, opt instead for a lifestyle; when they work out instead of do work to keep fit, how can we be surprised?

27 February 2008 at 16:54  
Blogger Snuffleupagus said...

I have had the experience you describe a hundred times over - I'm a teacher in the inner city. The point I make is not about whether or not one should give up. My point is that if we were not surrounded by so much materialism, clearly children, and indeed parents, would not be so influenced by it. And then you and I wouldn't have to work so hard against it. Perhaps I misunderstood, but I thought you were arguing for rampant capitalism.

Anyway, I would love to know what bigger character flaws are only reached through Jesus.

27 February 2008 at 19:25  
Blogger Tomrat247 said...

I'm not arguing for rampant capitalism, just not against it; so often we mistake symptons for causes and I think the ability for many in the developed world to have plenty is one such case.

Think about it: we have poverty, but (next to) no one goes hungry, we have sickness, but their is access to healthcare (however bad we consider it, its worlds better than the village shaman in Africa) and we have crime, but all are equal in the eyes of the law, irrespective of creed, colour and gauranteed by the right to an attorney. At its core how can this be anything but a good thing? It can be corrupted for ill gain certainly but thats for that individual and God to sort out come the reckoning.

It gets me angry to hear people talking about how capitalism and materialism are the cause of human misery; human misery and its fallen nature are the cause of human misery and the flavour-of-destruction-of-the-month is merely a symptom. Consider modern medicine; illness is merely the symptom of your body dealing with a bacteria or virus. Medicine is primarily associated with dealing with these symptoms (e.g. Ibuprofen as an anti-inflammatory reduces swelling and so reduces the number of nerve endings being fired, thus reducing pain) but not the cause. So what happens when its a spiritual disease? We can paper over the cracks with various treatments (moralising, religion, lifestyle, etc.) but these merely hold off the visible manifestations of a deeper problem, which we either deal with ourselves (I would posit rare in the case of spiritual matters) or we find the solution: Christ, which leads me on to your last point -

Christ does not paper over the crack in a persons life - he completely replaces it anew. From this basis and with his teachings he can build his character in you. Building (any) character is the means by which we cope with spiritual disease; I firmly believe it is through Christ alone that we "innoculate" ourselves completely.


I agree with you regarding the cult of personality thing but I also find it quite encouraging - if one person or group can have such an impact negatively on a child then so can a positive influence be had.

28 February 2008 at 10:32  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Materialism is the philosophical theory that regards matter and its motions as constituting the universe, and all phenomena, including those of mind, as due to material agencies. It is not a love of material goods that is best defined as consumerism.

11 March 2008 at 14:38  
Blogger cgcenet said...

"The selling of lifestyles to children creates a culture of material competitiveness and promotes acquisitive individualism"

Sorry, but while I do not like excessive materialism, I do not understand why it is characterized as "individualism". In fact, this kind of competitiveness, this "keeping up with the joneses" fosters CONFORMITY, the exact ANTITHESIS of individualism. It is about people's worth being measured not in terms of what they are in themselves, but in terms of what they have COMPARED TO OTHER PEOPLE. This is conformist, NOT individualist.

26 May 2009 at 07:17  

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