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Jersey Consumer Council

Consumer News

Peer Pressure Purchasing

October 27, 2015 Money Matters No Comments

Peer pressure purchasing – how do we break the pattern?

“PLEEEEEEEEEASE! Absolutely everybody else has got one! It’s not fair!”

Sound familiar? Our parents would probably have replied, “I don’t care if everyone else has got one – we can’t afford it and you’re not having one!”. You laugh, but shouldn’t more of us be doing the same?

Saying no to our children is not always easy and if recent research figures are to be believed, the average parent spends £460* each year on things they do not need, but their children have persuaded them to buy. ‘Pester power’ is power indeed.

Sales of collectable characters; mobile phones; tablets; music; clothes and even what we eat and drink are all driven by consumers’ (or their children’s) desires to appear ‘the same’ as the peer group to which they aspire (or the peer group to which the marketing industry is encouraging them to aspire). The most basic of human needs is the sense of belonging – and if we can look just like our friends, by owning the same things, then we are more likely to feel that we fit in. And everyone will know that we fit in, because there’ll be a photo on Facebook.

Whilst many adults have learned to be more discerning, psychologists recognise that peer acceptance and appearance are the two biggest influences on a teenager’s happiness. The marketing industry knows this and parents know it too, which is why we find it so hard to say no, even when a purchase may be beyond our means. Who wants their child to be the one who is left out or ridiculed because they haven’t got the right bag or the right phone?

Jersey is a small Island community and by nature of its size, families of all means tend to rub shoulders socially, more than they might in larger, more fragmented city communities.   This is one of the wonderful aspects of Island life, but there is also a downside – the perceived affluence of some Island families can fuel a ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ mentality (or worse, trying to outdo the Joneses) among their friends, neighbours and associates, whether they can afford it or not.

So with the kids trying to keep pace with the Junior Joneses; the parents trying to stay neck-a-neck with Mr and Mrs; throw in the extra guilt-induced purchases, by parents who are remorseful that they spend such little time with their children (because they are working longer hours to fund all their purchasing) and an awful lot of debt is being racked up in Jersey in the perpetual peer pressured procurement process.

And in times of economic hardship, do we really need all those garments and gadgets that we buy? What are we teaching our children – the price of everything and the value of nothing? Is the purchasing process now:- you want; we buy and we miss out the part where we used to ‘save up’? Surely we aren’t doing our kids any long-term favours by providing such instantaneous gratification?

How will they ever manage a budget when they leave home, if we can’t demonstrate sensible spending to them now? Aren’t we just perpetuating another generation of spendthrifts; teaching them to accrue the sorts of needless debts that have ruined lives during our generation?

Surely we’d be better spending time with, rather than money on, our families, equipping our children with the emotional intelligence and confidence to cope with the peer pressure, in the situations when they have to go without? After all, that’s life. And life’s not fair dear – remember that one too?

So how does our society tackle the problem of peer pressure purchasing among the young AND old in Jersey? What do you think? We’d love to hear your views on how we could stop the vicious cycle; rescue parents from spiralling debts and at the same time keep our children happy alongside their peers.

Daily Telegraph, 17th Oct 2013


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