In the old days of (ugh) Marketing to Kids, Pester Power was a well-known phenomenon: batallions of angry and sulky kids beating their hapless parents into submission to buy the latest Barbie, Lego spin-off set from some super-hero universe, crisp and soft drink flavours, sweets, sweets and more sweets - and, of course, mobile phones and all to do with gaming tech.
But I noticed a subtle change in the nature of Pester Power, some twelve years ago, at the Christmas Market, where children were encouraged to write their Christmas wishes on a star, to be displayed on a wall. My son was still old-school at this point, with his wish for “Everything from Lego Star Wars”, but this rather greedy wish was over-shadowed by a mass of junior do-gooders, who wished for everything from World Peace to their granny getting out of hospital in time to spend a family Christmas together.
In the latest edition of Globescan’s Healthy & Sustainable Living Report (2022) we can see just how far things have developed. Pester Power has taken a moralistic and activistic turn: "our children are driving a sense of urgency about the climate” proclaims the writer of the report, somewhat pompously. In the study amongst 30,000 respondents across 31 markets, 63% of those with children under 18 at home agree their children are worried about climate change and the environment.
I assume that the 23% who say their children are neither worried nor not worried have children under the age of 3 or so?
Of course, this is nothing new. When I was at school, back in the 70s, we were forever doing projects on pollution and the environment, for biology, geography or simply for assembly. I remember having a go at my mum for her fur coat and probably got into a tangled argument with my dad about nuclear weapons.
But it’s an important finding, and it must be difficult for parents, particularly those who are really strapped for cash. It’s one thing to say no to the latest Nintendo game, or Barbie’s pink plastic dream castle, but quite another to say sorry, family, can’t afford that good-for-the-environment detergent: it’s just too expensive and won’t get the mud and grass stains out of your football kit.
But without snuffing out children’s commendable environmental ardour, young people would be well-advised to have a look at their own desire:action gap. I know a young man who merrily voted for the Green Party while leaving his poor parents to sort out the three bursting black bags of completely mixed trash in his dump of a bedroom.