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'Ban TV for the under 12s and spend time with your kids'

A CHARITY called today for a ban on TV aimed at under-12s after a study revealed that parents feel under pressure to buy their children gadgets and branded clothes.

The research suggests that parents lose out on spending time together as a family, due in part to long working hours, and often try and try to make amends by buying their children designer goods and toys.

The study for Unicef UK, found that youngsters' happiness was dependent on spending time with a stable family and having plenty of things to do, especially outdoors.

But despite this, parents said they felt tremendous pressure from society to buy the latest material goods, a Unicef UK spokesman said.

The charity said the research provides some insight into the underlying issues behind the English riots - which saw children as young as 11 looting stores.

The pressure was felt most acutely in low-income homes, the study, conducted on 250 children from Spain, Sweden and the UK, said.

In contrast, in Spain and Sweden, family time is prioritised and people feel less pressure to own material goods, the study found.

As a result, the charity has asked for the Government to consider following the example of Sweden by banning television advertising aimed at children under-12.

It also wants to encourage parents to work fewer hours and spend more time with their children and warned councils against closing children's playgrounds or other facilities.

Unicef UK's executive director David Bull said: "Right now politicians are grappling with the aftermath of the riots and what they say about our society, culture and families.

"The research findings provide important insights into the pressures children and their families are facing and may speak to some of the underlying issues relating to the disturbances.

"It is vital that those in power listen to what children and their families are saying about life in the UK.

"In response, the Government needs to show strong leadership by taking decisive action to help families fight back against the materialism and inequality that is so pervasive in the UK.

"They need to make sure parents earn enough to spend fewer hours in work and more time with their children, protect children's play facilities from spending cuts and consider reforming the laws controlling advertising to children."

Children's Minister Sarah Teather said: "We know strong, stable families are the bedrock of a successful society. We want to make sure all families have the help and support they need.

"That's why we are consulting on plans to help parents better balance work and family life through more flexible and generous parental leave and flexible working. We are also looking at ways to give families better access to advice and support on parenting.

"We share Unicef's concerns about the rise of consumerism among children, and it's worrying to see that in some cases parents are under the same pressures.

"We are clear this needs to be tackled and are currently working with businesses and regulators to implement the recommendations from Reg Bailey's review on commercialisation and sexualisation of children."

Children's Society chief executive Bob Reitemeier said: "We need to tackle the compulsive pressure that parents feel in this country to buy material goods for their children.

"We need to educate parents so they know what their children want, because our research has shown us time and again that what they want is time together with their families."