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Last Updated: Sunday, 9 December 2007, 05:20 GMT
Ads' impact on children probed
Children going to school
Children are "bombarded" with ads, says the children's secretary
The government is launching an inquiry into the possible harmful effects of advertising on children.

The probe, part of a 10-year plan for children in England to be published next week, comes amid fears about the commercialisation of childhood.

It will look at evidence of links between adverts and dissatisfaction, anxiety, eating disorders and drinking.

Children see some 10,000 TV adverts a year and recognise 400 brands by age 10, Children's Secretary Ed Balls says.

'Sexualisation' of girls

He said many parents were concerned about youngsters being bombarded with adverts and media images that encouraged the "sexualisation" of girls.

Mr Balls said the inquiry would be carried out by leading child psychologists and academics.

They would look at the cumulative impact of advertising on different aspects of childhood and well-being, to see whether commercial pressure had a "negative impact".

"We need to look at the evidence around commercialisation before we jump to any conclusions," he said.

Mr Balls said a ministerial group would examine the links between advertising and binge-drinking among children, including the effects of a "spike" of alcohol adverts on television between 4pm and 6pm.

Mr Balls said he would not rule out introducing new regulations, but stopped short of suggesting a ban on alcohol advertising before the 9pm watershed.

10-year plan

A survey by education inspectors Ofsted last month found that one in five 10 to 15-year-olds regularly got drunk.

The BBC's James Westhead suggested that, rather than trying to ban adverts targeted at children, the government was more likely to try to foster a sense of responsibility among advertisers.

Advertising during children's TV schedules is completely out of hand.
Clive Hamilton

The details of the inquiry and the rest of the 10-year children's plan are due to be announced by Mr Balls on Tuesday.

It is set to look at all aspects of children's lives and could include changes in the design of schools, as well as attempts to get parents more directly involved in school activities and to improve the provision of safe play areas.

It is also expected to include a review of Sats tests and the primary school curriculum as well as an announcement of free nursery care for children as young as two from poorer families.

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