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The brand bully

You can put a price on trainers, but not on individuality, says Mirela Ivanova.

Research from UNICEF has revealed that 'parents buy high status brands to protect their children from bullying.' A statement of the obvious you might think, like saying that parents don’t spend enough time with their children if they spend too much time at work. Something UNICEF already enlightened us about in this study based in the UK, Spain and Sweden, in which UNICEF concluded that UK parents 'struggle to find enough time with their children.' It follows, that parents attempt to make up for the lost time with new possessions – whether a bag or an iPod. A serious problem that has arisen, however, as children are becoming more selective about their belongings from an earlier age. Now, they don’t just want a new bag. They want a new Adidas bag.

Adolescence has become a carnival with a ticket that costs parents their hard work and children their individuality. It seems now, you cannot just be a teenager, you also have to look, dress and speak like one. The freedom to discover yourself is part of growing up but as with everything in society, you have to be given boundaries in order to be protected. The problem is that these boundaries now appear to be manufactured by Adidas or Apple, and keep those who can’t afford these possessions excluded in a way playing on swings and roundabouts never did. There is no exam, no interview, and no personal statement for becoming accepted as a teenager. In an interview with the BBC a 14 year-old outlined the candidate specification in the simplest terms, 'You could live in a dustbin and as long as you have an iPod and a Blackberry you are accepted.'

It seems unfortunate that the future of our society depends on a strange form of consumerism. It doesn’t matter what you actually have. What matters most is what it seems like you have. Thus, even if you do live in a dustbin, as long as you look like you don’t there is no problem. But such a focus on appearance distracts teenagers from the reality. Because having an iPod does not mean you’re rich or popular. It doesn’t even mean you are accepted. Acceptance relies on understanding and as brand bullying develops teenagers would not want to be understood as they are. They would want people to see them through a filter of societal expectations – not looking at their old washed out trainers, but at their brand. This is how individuality will descend into similarity and the comfort of a feigned acceptance. Young people are the future, but whether we accept it as a group that shares ideals and values or as individuals with lively, differing opinions is entirely up to us.

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