It’s one of the most common criticism working parents face: You try to make up for being away by bribing your kids with presents.
Now, in Britain at least, it’s official. A report by the United Nations’ children’s agency, Unicef, is taking British parents to task for family materialism, according to the Telegraph. The report then links this reality with the rampant looting that occurred during the London riots last month.
The report says parents pointlessly amass goods for their children to compensate for their long working hours, according to the piece. The kids themselves told researchers that spending time with their families would make them happier.
The study, which was jointly funded by the England’s Department for Education, “was commissioned after an earlier Unicef report ranked Britain as the worst country in the industrialised world to be a child.”
In the new study, researchers interviewed hundreds of children in Britain, Sweden and Spain, asking them about their ideas of happiness and success.
Researchers found that consumerism was less deeply embedded in Sweden and Spain, which rank significantly higher for the wellbeing of children, reports the Telegraph.
British parents, however, are working “longer hours and are simply ‘too tired’ to play with their children whom in turn they can no longer control,” reports the paper.
In addition, children’s bedrooms have become “media bedsits” overrun with computers, games consoles and widescreen TVs.
Report author Agnes Nairn, an academic and marketing expert, told the paper: “Parents in the UK almost seemed to be locked into a system of consumption which they knew was pointless but they found hard to resist."
In one case a mother was reportedly fretting over whether to buy a Nintendo DS games system for her three- year-old son convinced that he would be bullied if she did not get him one.
The report at least hinted at socio-economic and cultural differences between countries: In Spain, for instance, the dads tended to work long hours, but kids spent more time with moms and other family members.
This week, Unicef called for the government to ban advertising aimed at children under the age of 12 and to encourage parents to work fewer hours and spend more time at home.
Canadians shouldn’t be too smug upon hearing this news. This week, Statistics Canada announced that we’re spending a lot of money we don’t have.
Should parents be singled out for their consumerist tendencies?
Editor's Note: Statistics Canada announced Canadian debt is on the rise. Incorrect information appeared in the original version of this article.