What white lies were Brits told as children?

Connor IbbetsonData Journalist
January 22, 2021, 3:04 PM UTC

Santa’s naughty list is the top white lie British parents tell their children

White lies can be a valuable tool to weary parents in controlling their children, from getting them to eat their vegetables to cutting back on screen time. But which white lies do adults remember from their childhood, and which have been passed on by parents to their children in turn?

Most Britons remember being told carrots help them see in the dark

The most popular white lie that adults recall is being told is that eating their carrots would improve their vision in the dark (88%). While there is some truth to this, vitamin A in carrots is essential for good eyesight, this myth was actually created to cover up the invention of aircraft-detecting radar in the second world war. Despite its age, this white lie remains popular, with 78% of 18 to 24-year olds saying their parents told them this lie as children.

The second most popular white lie adults remember being told (86%) is about the naughty and nice lists Father Christmas keeps thought the year.

Following this, 73% also say their parents told them that they would get square eyes from using screens too much. Despite the increasing prevalence of screens, this lie is most remembered by 24 to 49-year olds (80%, who would have been children between the mid 1970’s-90’s) compared to 64% of 18 to 24-year olds.

Another lie that is more likely to be remembered by this group is that lying can cause your nose to grow (68%), which 75% of 25 to 49-year olds recall compared to 48% of 18 to 24-year olds.

Around a third (37%) of adults say their parents said that eating the crusts of bread would put hair on their chest, a lie remembered by 40% of men and 33% of women.

A lie that younger adults do recall more, however, is that ice-cream vans only play their tune when they have run out of ice cream. One in six (15%) of 18 to 25-year olds say their parents told them this, compared to 7% of the over 65s.

What white lies do parents today tell their children? Father Christmas tops the list

By far the most commonly used white lie by British parents with children under the age of 18 is Santa Claus and the naughty list, which 75% of parents have told to their children. Nearly half of parents (48%) have re-told the myth of carrots and night vison to their kids.

As indicated by the fact that fewer younger adults were told the square eyes lie, only a third (33%) of parents are telling their children fibs about looking at screens. A similar proportion (25%) say they have told their children that reading in the dark could damage their eyes and 25% confess they’ve told their children lying would make their nose grow.

Classic white lies appear to be becoming less popular, with fewer parents telling their children than recall them from their own childhood. The biggest change is for the lie that knuckle cracking or popping leads to arthritis, which 78% of parents heard themselves as children but only 23% have passed on to their own kids.

Mum’s also tend to be the biggest fibbers, with women using white lies to their children more than men in all of the examples YouGov asked about. The biggest difference between the genders being the Santa Claus naughty list, used by 80% of mums and 68% of dads.

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