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Archbishop says question of children's ad regulation is urgent

LONDON - The Archbishop of Canterbury has said that the question of regulating advertising aimed at children must be addressed urgently, as he warned that society was 'rushing' children through childhood and into the commercial habits of adulthood.

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Dr Rowan Williams made the comments at a lecture this week on child rearing and citizenship, in which he said that adults need to stop behaving like children, and making their children fit in with their lives.

One of the concerns he raised was that children are rushed through childhood, and consumerised and sexualised, raising questions about the regulation of advertising that is aimed at children.

"It is a question of some urgency. If we are interested, corporately and socially, in creating and maintaining an environment where pressure on children is regarded as unjust -- I use the word deliberately -- then the right of children to justice involves challenging many of the habits of the advertising world in respect of children," Dr Williams said.

The issue of advertising to children has been hotly debated over the past few years, since Sweden, which prohibits ads aimed at under 12s, attempted to introduce a ban across the EU during its 2001 presidency.

With the government looking at the obesity crisis in the UK, the issue has again reared its head, with calls for a ban on junk food advertising during children's television programmes. However, this has not yet been put in place.

In his speech yesterday, Dr Williams described a society where adults remain infantile, unwilling to believe that they can make a difference because they are "flattened out" in the role of consumers. He was critical of a society happy to shunt children from nurseries and childminders, or plonk them in front of a video.

He also criticised the education system for being obsessed with exams and testing.

"We ought to be educating in emotional and communicative literacy, as well as other kinds of literacy," he said.

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