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Exploiting Childhood

How Fast Food, Material Obsession and Porn Culture are Creating New Forms of Child Abuse
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Children deserve to live a life that is safe from exploitation and harm, but are we failing in our duty to protect them?

Childhood today is big business - it is impossible for any child growing up to avoid pervasive and intense marketing from companies. Whether it be for fatty foods resulting in childhood obesity, expensive franchised toys which encourage tension within families and stigma among friends, or 'pornified' role models who pervert children's ideas of sexuality, research clearly shows that commercial pressures are having a direct impact on children's psychological development and health. This book draws together a series of hard-hitting articles contributed by key thinkers on child welfare and child psychology including Oliver James, Susie Orbach and Gail Dines. Together they identify new and emerging forms of child exploitation, and editor Jim Wild constructs a powerful argument for why current child protection procedures designed to protect children from abuse are no longer adequate.

Outspoken and challenging, this book invites us to consider our responsibility for preventing the harm children are experiencing, and is required reading for anyone concerned with the welfare of children.
  • Published: Aug 19 2013
  • Pages: 224
  • 229 x 154mm
  • ISBN: 9781849053686
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Press Reviews

  • Marian Swindell, PhD, MSW, and Associate Professor of Social Work at Mississippi State University, The New Social Worker

    It's a frightening and sobering read... I welcomed the emphasis throughout this book on the bigger picture; in a nutshell the theses Is that we need to widen the parameters of what we currently accept as child abuse to include the pervasive and longer term damaging effects of neo-liberal economics on human development and specifically child development... Essential reading for anyone who is concerned about the future of our children and young people.' Nurturing Potential/Potential Unleashed 'This captivating book is a must read for parents, teachers, ministers, counselors, social workers, and pediatricians. Jim Wild, the editor, has skillfully found a way to link the new culture of children's addiction back to the family, or lack of family guidance, and more interesting, the community. The book details the many ways that corporate America has preyed upon the innocence and gullibility of children as well as parents... This books was enlightening, frightening, and infuriating, as adults are allowing this abuse to take place, often condoning it to assuage the child. This placation to children, with video games, and iPods, and Play Stations, is keeping children indoors, unable to remember to play, create, recreate, run, scream, climb trees, run on the grass. And the more we keep our children inside, the more obese, apathetic, lethargic, and sickly they are becoming. The book is an easy-to-read collection of well written, short, concise, and very clear chapters, focusing on material and sexual exploitation... This book outraged me, as I hope it does every single other reader. I hope, however, the outrage turns into action, as this book draws a straight line from corporate America greed to physical, emotional, and psychological abuse.
  • Sue Palmer, author of Toxic Childhood

    When adults poison children, groom them for sex or expose them to extreme violence, we call it abuse. In this provocative and often shocking book, child protection expert Jim Wild rallies a wide range of expert evidence to show how "abuse" of this kind is rapidly becoming normalised across society -- in the name of economic growth. As unregulated corporate greed threatens the physical and mental health of an entire generation, Exploiting Childhood is a book none of us can afford to ignore.
  • Sue Gerhardt, psychotherapist and author of The Selfish Society

    The nightmarish vision of this book is that parents have less and less ability to influence their children as the advertising and multimedia corporations colonise their minds. Children's bodies and brains are being steered towards future disease from junk food, they are desensitised to violence and prematurely sexualised, whilst their imaginations and empathy wither away from lack of creative play and interaction. It is a scary story and it left me genuinely wondering whether our current culture is itself abusing children.
  • Jay Griffiths, author of Kith: The Riddle of the Childscape

    Keenly researched and powerfully argued, this is a clarion call for the protection of children against insidious forms of harm. A courageous and hugely important book.
  • Jane O'Daly, Trust Safeguarding Lead, Derby Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

    Over 12 years of delivering Local Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB) and single agency safeguarding training, I've found that attendees always want to know a safeguarding professional's opinions on the sorts of dilemmas and issues discussed in this book. This is an accessible, compelling and important book, and anyone involved in safeguarding children should read it and be aware of these issues.
  • Nigel Parton, Professor of Applied Childhood Studies, University of Huddersfield

    This important book recognises that child protection policy and practice has a very restricted view of what causes harm to children, and that we need to take seriously the growing evidence about the negative impact of commercial and corporate exploitation on children's well-being.
  • Professor Gerard Hastings, Director of the Institute for Social Marketing and the Centre for Tobacco Control Research, Stirling and the Open University

    This vital book unpicks one of the tragedies of our time: the destruction of childhood by materialism, must-have selfishness and neoliberal ideology. From "make me a model parties" for six year old girls, complete with manicurists, hair dressers and a bespoke catwalk, to children watching 18,000 ads a year on their bedroom tellies, the picture to emerge is both grim and compelling. No wonder one child sex offender could so coldly observe "the culture did a lot of the grooming for me". But this book also gives enormous hope. People -- young and old -- are resisting, rebelling and retelling their own stories. The chapter on critical thinking and the 'hunt for assumptions' is beautifully pitched. We meet the inner city writing group Still Waters in a Storm which is an oasis that allows kids to regroup and rethink. And though we are reminded that the road to change is not easy, we also learn that we can have fun along the way -- whether it is in the knowing lyrics of the rap scene or the wisdom of Shakespeare re-expressed in New York street argot.
  • Dr Terry Murphy Teesside University and Social Work Action Network committee

    This book should find a place on the reading lists of all safeguarding and children's services workers. It fills a gap in the literature by moving away from the usual focus on individual families and instead systematically examining the impact of society wide commercial pressures on children.
  • Brian Littlechild, Professor of Social Work, University of Hertfordshire, UK

    This well-evidenced and argued book exposes the pervasive and shocking forms of commercial exploitation and abuse of children by large corporations. Jim Wild and the expert chapter authors challenge us to face up to the misery and exploitation caused to parents, children and young people by these companies. The book makes a persuasive case for ensuring that children are protected from all forms of abuse, beyond those that our child protection systems currently recognise.
  • Trish O'Donnell, Development Manager, NSPCC

    Child protection is everyone's business -- or at least it should be! This provocative book asks whether it is time to broaden the definition of "significant harm" because of the nature of the society we live in, the way we do business and the implications this has for our children. It focuses on many areas not traditionally seen as the core business of child protection professionals, and challenges us to consider how our modern society impacts on children and their right to a safe childhood. Parents, professionals and politicians have a responsibility to understand the growing body of evidence concerning these risks. Agree or disagree, this book will challenge your thinking and urge you to question how some things in everyday life may be doing children more harm than good.
  • Nurturing Potential/Potential Unleashed

    It's a frightening and sobering read... I welcomed the emphasis throughout this book on the bigger picture; in a nutshell the theses Is that we need to widen the parameters of what we currently accept as child abuse to include the pervasive and longer term damaging effects of neoliberal economics on human development and specifically child development... Essential reading for anyone who is concerned about the future of our children and young people.
  • Tracey McKenna, Head of Social Work, St Michael's House

    IASU (Irish Association of Social Workers)
    This is a very well researched book and one that sends a strong message to parents and to professionals... The book aims to explore the views that such exploitation should be considered a cause of 'significant harm' to children... This is a reflective and well-written book. The facts, for the most part are known, but presented in this way, highlight the scale of the problem.
  • Publishers Weekly

    Editor Wild (Social Care) successfully assembles a deeply disturbing and motivating series of mostly academic essays investigating the exploitation of children. Divided into three sections-"Commercial Exploitation, "Sexual Exploitation," and "Fighting Against Commercial and Sexual Exploitation," the book is highly readable and bristles with infuriating facts. In an essay on child obesity, Tim Lobstein shows how junk food has become "the best-planned and...funded assault on children's health," whereas in another essay Liz Kelly, the director of Child and Woman Abuse Studies Unit, explains how pornography involving adults dressed in infantile ways puts children at risk. It is worth noting that the editor and most of the contributors are British, which might create a slight disconnect for American readers. Still, the case being made-that children are endangered by our culture-is crystal clear, and although the book falters in providing substantial solutions or suggestions to help combat these insidious norms, it will inspire readers to make immediate changes in how they and their children interact with that culture. (Sept.)