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Advertising to children

My children do watch television. I feel like I’m outing myself in some sort of internet based confessional and very shortly the proper parents will be round to remove the offending box from my living room.  The reality is I think most of us make good use of the TV from time to time.  But like anything else that you know is probably bad for you television is a slippery slope.  I started with a bit of Cbeebies, nice educational programmes that, with the exception of Dirt Girl World, I didn’t have a problem with.
Has it really changed that much?
But then we discovered Nick Jr and the joys of Peppa Pig on a loop, intercepted only by Nanny Plum and friends on my favourite kids programme Ben & Holly’s Little Kingdom.  So far, so sweet and innocent.  But then Eliza figured out how to use the remote and all of a sudden there’s a plethora of, for want of more enlightened word, crap on television in the endless list of children’s channels. 
And advertisements. 
My God the ads!  They are never ending. And they’re not just endlessly Lelli Kelly or absurdly realistic and frankly scary dolls that wee and cry and scream and vomit.  They’re for household products, because of course the only other person watching this type of telly will be mums, because of course all mums do is wash, clean, cook and look after the kids right? Maybe several decades ago.  Yes my inner-feminist is coming out again. I put my foot down and limited the TV to Cbeebies but the damage has apparently been done. 
The other morning as I was getting dressed upstairs I could hear Eliza crashing about downstairs in the kitchen.  So I went down to see what was going on.
“Darling what are you doing?” I said as I saw her, in what we euphemistically call the utility room but is actually a badly converted garage, sweeping something up. 
“I found some snow mummy and I’m just clearing it up.” She was rather surprised to see me. 
“Really? was it the squirty cream?” My heart sank. 
“No Mummy, it was like um, er, a chemical.”  Holy shit! Cue my very calm but deeply panicky voice.
“Ok darling, now can you show me exactly what is was that you sprayed in here?”
“No Mummy I’m not telling, its a secret.”
So I went and sniffed it. There was no mistaking the chemical vapours. I went into the kitchen and there on the side next to the sink was the bright pink can of Vanish Carpet Cleaner (I mean really, all little girls like pink for God’s sake, they may as well have covered it in smarties).  
“Was it this that you sprayed darling?” Thanking God that she hadn’t thought it was the squirty cream as that would have been really frightening.
“Yes Mummy.” She looked very proud with herself. 
“It’s Vanish carpet cleaner Mummy and it’s got oxygen in it and it cleans the carpet which was very dirty.”
“How do you even know that?” My interest in how she had come by this precise information overriding my panic/concern that she had sprayed it everywhere.
“It said on the telly.”
Of course it bloody did.  
Now there’s an argument here that this was all my fault, for a) letting her watch television and b) not putting decent locks on the cleaning cupboard. It’s interesting though. When you consider all the millions of pounds that companies spend on advertising it is a 4 year old girl who is most convinced by it.  It’s all just white noise to me but to her impressionable little mind it’s far worse, it’s actually interesting. 

On the strength of this conversation I am now wrangling with my morals over whether to ditch Sky. On the plus side is no more crap children’s TV channels with endless advertising but on the down side is no more Mad Men, which would be devastating for me. 
Tough call. 


  1. We now just let them watch Cbeebies (or films) on the ipad to avoid ads – don’t need my 2 year old telling me about wonderful cleaning products (not least because we try and not use them…)

  2. Hi there,

    I’ve been considering ditching SKY and donating our TV ever since my daughter has become addicted to the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse! I blame myself but it does distract them for a wee while and it provides us with some much needed down time. You’re right, it is a tough call!

    Evie from (www.countingblueberries.com)

    PS I just started blogging! I would love for you to check out my site and tell me what you think..if time allows. Thanks!

    • My God I can’t bear that show, something about the tone of the voices just makes me want to hurl the TV through the window, I loathe it. No redeeming features. Phew, must calm down!

      I’ll have a read of your blog, thanks for letting me know!

  3. So funny, so scary. But Cbeebies have saved my sanity so often…

  4. Hi there, good post as always! torn really as prefer cbeebies as you can trust them to just show programmes without adverts but nick junior has loads of peppa pig and ben & holly…have bought some peppa dvd’s now to avoid nick junior and all the other channels!

  5. I feel your pain, I don’t have Sky but my kids watch Milkshake on Ch5 in the mornings to get their fix of peppa pig, Ben and Holly and Fifi….I always get pointed out cleaning products in the ad break as ‘look mummy this is for you’ grrrrrrrr and yes pink products to young girls is like a red flag to a bull…I did switch to Shout (yellow) but it wasn’t as effective as Vanish LOL I still have to clean up after 3 kids!

    • Oh yes Milkshake – Fifi and the Flowertots. I remember it well. If only…

      Just realised what a great job we’re doing on Vanish’s PR – which was entirely not the intention!

  6. I haven’t managed to cut out television completely, but I have seriously cut back since my daughter was born.

    I was practically a reality show addict before my mom warned my daughter’s first words were going to be naughty ones.

    My daughter’s viewing is pretty much limited to Sesame Street on the DVR and Barney. At 17-months she doesn’t seem interested in ads, but who knows what’s going on in that head of hers.


    • She’ll be storing it all up and one day she’ll repeat an ad verbatim – kids are extremely clever! Sesame Street – brings back fond memories of when I was little on Saturday mornings. x

  7. Interestingly we have just today decided that ours are not watching anymore of that Disney XD crap and all those other channels that Americanise our kids without us even realising until it’s too late. Did you know that you can block channels on Sky? I didn’t until today :)
    They haven’t yet found out. I’m waiting for the screams…

  8. Going without Mad Men – unthinkable!

    Ironically though Mad Men is all about advertising.

    You could rationalise that exposing your 4 year old to advertising now is actually teaching her about how persuasive the industry tries to be, its a learning opportunity for you that will prepare her for the future.

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