Our highly consumerist society teaches us that owning more equates to individual success and at Global Action Plan, we just don't buy it.
Advertising convinces young people that buying more will provide them with a sense of satisfaction. But relentless purchasing only creates short highs and fails to address our underlying need for a sense of self-worth. It is also fuelling the unsustainable use of our planet's resources.
Consuming less and focusing on what makes us happy are critical in combating climate change and boosting wellbeing.
Resources for parents
Digital and social media adverts are much less visible to parents than TV advertising. That's one of the reasons we launched #Idontbuyit - a conversation with teenagers about social media advertising, and a set of free resources for parents.
Research from Ofcom shows that young people find it difficult to spot when they’re being advertised to, especially on social media. We have developed resources to help you protect your teenagers from the most harmful impacts of social media advertising and guide them towards a healthier and more fulfilling way of living.
Three steps to help young people be more resilient to advertising
1. Help to identify advertising, particularly where it is less obvious such as a promoted post on Instagram. Make a point of calling out advertising when you see it, discussing how it is trying to influence us and how we spend our money.
2. Understand and talk about how companies capture and use our data online. Install ad-blockers on your internet browsers. Show young people how not to consent to sites and apps’ access to personal data online – all of these will reduce how many ads they see on a daily basis. There are links to digital privacy toolkits and free ad-block plugins below.
3. Help them to unplug and relax – the biggest buffer between ads and your children is reducing the amount of screen time they have daily. There’s more information and some suggestions on how to do this on the page below.
Free resources: ad-block plugins and digital privacy tools
How to view and edit your advertising settings
Resources for young people
Do more of
Spending time together and building close relationships with friends and family, in real life.
As humans, we need close bonds with other people to thrive – personal interaction is key to healthy, happy relationships and lives. For example, you could have a ‘no technology at mealtimes’ rule, and book family activities.
Screen free activties.
Being connected to a wider community and staying physically active are all things that we can do through our hobbies and they help to make us happier. Here are 101 screen-free activities.
Focussing on accepting yourself and being thankful for what you have.
Be grateful for what you have, instead of focusing on what you don’t. Just thinking about what we already have and are grateful for has been shown to make us happier.
Buying less stuff.
This is a key way you can reduce your impact on the environment. We all need to buy things to survive but thinking about what we need vs what we want is an important distinction to make. Below are some key questions that you could ask yourself before making any purchase. This is a great behaviour to model to your children.
Key questions to ask yourself before you make a new purchase:
Why do I want this?
Who is trying to sell this to me?
Do I trust the brand or source?
Do I already have something similar?
When will I use it?
Will I be using this item this time next year?
Why is it so cheap? (Who is paying the real cost?)
How long will it last?
Who made it?
Where did it come from?
Was it made sustainably?
Is it eco-friendly?
Will it improve my life?
Could I get this second hand?
What’s the company’s record like on human rights? Sustainability?
Do I need it?
Do more of
Avoid recognising and praising with likes on social media.
Getting “likes” on social media can be very addictive and make us feel like we need to keep chasing this online approval.* But real-world likes (hugs and words of support and congratulation) mean a lot more.
Avoid using physical gifts as a reward.
Instead of buying more stuff to reward children, could you think of other incentives? For example, a shared experience or event? It’s been shown that experiences give a more long-lasting sense of joy and happiness than the short bursts we get from a purchase or flashy gift.
Focussing on looks and appearance.
Think of things to praise other than appearance – like kindness, generosity, resilience etc. Many young people feel the way they look is the most important thing about them. Help shatter this myth by praising the other qualities you love about them.
Avoid shopping as a pastime.
A study found that children (aged 6-12) spend more time shopping than they do reading, playing outdoors or talking with others. Are there other activities that would be more rewarding to do together? For example, going to the park or cinema, visiting your family, or getting involved with the local community.
* Read the 5Rights campaign’s Disrupted Childhood report for an excellent explanation of how “likes” and other techniques used by social media platforms keep users online as long as possible.