Dubbed 'corporate paedophilia' by some campaigners, advertising stands accused of corrupting young minds and turning children into either obese couch potatoes or anorexic wannabe celebrities.
Youngsters apparently now spend more time watching TV than they spend in school, see more than 10,000 TV adverts a year and recognise 400 brands by the age of 10, as well as being exposed to online adverts often promoting products unsuitable for children, such as gambling and dating.
UK Schools Secretary Ed Balls recently announced an inquiry to investigate a suggested link between advertising and increased anxiety, eating disorders, drinking and violent behaviour among youngsters, also noting concerns about the inappropriate 'sexualisation' of girls.
Advertising seems to have become the focus of broader anxieties about what the Archbishop of Canterbury has dubbed 'the growing commercialisation of childhood'.
Children's author Jacqueline Wilson worries that 'we are force feeding our own materialistic and consumptive culture into their mouths'.
Are we creating greedy and materialistic children, too focused on buying and consuming 'stuff' to appreciate more innocent pleasures, or do such concerns betray more profound doubts about our ability to pass on meaningful values to the next generation?
Do we over-estimate the power of advertising and the media, and underestimate today's techno-savvy 'digital natives'.
Is it better to be safe than sorry, to have more regulation to protect impressionable children from malign influences? Or should adults chill out and stop over-protecting children?- Institute of Ideas
Neil Davenport is a former music journalist whose work has been published in City Life, Manchester Evening News, Jockey Slut, Metro, Select, 7, Sleaze Nation, Q, Uncut and London Lite. He now writes regularly for the current affairs journal spiked-online on such issues as multiculturalism, music, education, drugs and licensing laws, anti-materialist sceptics and the UK Conservative Party.
In September 2007 he has contributed a chapter called 'The Rise and Rise of Credentialism' to The Lecturers Guide to Further Education by Hayes, Turner and Marshall (Open University Press), and is currently researching a book provisionally entitled The 1980s and the Strange Death of Social Aspiration.
He currently teaches politics and sociology at the JFS Sixth Form Centre in Harrow, Middlesex, and holds an MSc in Social and Political Theory from the University of London
Educator and researcher in the cultural sector with a strong interest in issues relating to media literacy and e-learning. Part of the education team at the British Film Institute, Wendy promotes film and media education to learners across the UK and shares, with the head of department, management of the strategic development of BFI Education. Wendy is also researching for a PhD, examining the use of internet technologies by cultural institutions to reach new audiences.
Sarah Ebner began her career as a graduate trainee on the Daily Express, where she was twice shortlisted for young journalist of the year. She then became a feature writer on the Daily Mail, before moving into television as a producer and occasional reporter on Newsnight. Here she covered a very broad range of stories, including those on arts, sport and US politics. After having children, Sarah freelanced for a variety of newspapers and magazines, and was shortlisted for the British Press Awardsâ€™ specialist writer of the year. This was for her features on the family. Sarah continued freelancing (she was shortlisted once again at the Press Awards, for feature writer of the year, in 2008) and also moved online, as editor of Supernanny.co.uk. In July 2008 she joined Times Online as editor of their new education blog, School Gate.
Dr Agnes Nairn is an academic researcher, writer and consultant based in Bath, UK. She is Professor of Marketing at two of Europeâ€™s leading business schools: EM-Lyon Business School in France and RSM Erasmus University in the Netherlands.
Her book Consumer Kids, co-authored with Ed Mayo of Consumer Focus will appear in January 2009. It takes a hard look at whatâ€™s happening as children are increasingly targetted by corporations.
Agnes is currently on the panel convened by the Department for Children, Schools and Families to assess the evidence for the impact of the commercial world on childrenâ€™s wellbeing.
Her recent publications in the area include â€œWatching, Wanting and Wellbeingâ€, â€œBusted are Cool but Barbieâ€™s a Mingerâ€, â€œFair Gameâ€, â€œPester Powerâ€ and â€œWhoâ€™s Messing with My Mindâ€.
Sarah Ebner, editor of The Times Online School Gate Blog, believes it is ridiculous to blame advertising alone for stressed out school children and asserts that the true demon lies in the sedentary lifestyle embraced by TV, the Internet and technology.