Sexualisation of Childhood report published

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A six-month independent review into the commercialisation and sexualisation of childhood calls on businesses and media to play their part in ending the drift towards an increasingly sexualised ‘wallpaper’ that surrounds children.

Reg Bailey, Chief Executive of Mothers’ Union, who led the independent review, said: "Society has become increasingly full of sexualised imagery. This has created a wallpaper to children’s lives. Parents feel there is no escape and no clear space where children can be children.

"I want to put the power back in parents’ hands so they can better manage the pressures on their children and make it easier for them to bring up their children the way they want.

"Parents need encouragement to feel they can change things and that their voices will be heard. Regulators, businesses and broadcasters should do more to connect with parents – it’s not enough for them to work out what is acceptable from what people complain about afterwards."

Many of the actions suggested in the report are for businesses and regulators rather than for the Government.

Reg Bailey is recommending that the Government should monitor the implementation of his recommendations and do a stock-take in 18 months time.

The recommendations in the report include:

  • Providing parents with one single website to make it easier to complain about any programme, advert, product or service.
  • Putting age restrictions on music videos to prevent children buying sexually explicit videos and guide broadcasters over when to show them.
  • Covering up sexualised images on the front pages of magazines and newspapers so they are not in easy sight of children.
  • Making it easier for parents to block adult and age-restricted material from the internet by giving every customer a choice at the point of purchase over whether they want adult content on their home internet, laptops or smart phones.
  • Retailers offering age-appropriate clothes for children – the retail industry should sign up to the British Retail Consortium’s new guidelines which checks and challenges the design, buying, display and marketing of clothes, products and services for children.
  • Restricting outdoor adverts containing sexualised imagery where large numbers of children are likely to see them, for example near schools, nurseries and playgrounds.
  • Giving greater weight to the views of parents in the regulation of pre-watershed TV, rather than viewers as a whole, about what is suitable for children to watch.
  • Banning the employment of children under 16 as brand ambassadors and in peer-to-peer marketing, and improving parents’ awareness of advertising and marketing techniques aimed at children.

Children’s Minister Sarah Teather said: "It is not Government's role to interfere in family life. But parents often tell me that they would like more support so that they can navigate the rapidly-changing technological and commercial world."

Chris Woolard, Group Director of Content at Ofcom, said: "Ofcom recognises the critical importance of parents’ views about what children watch on TV. We will continue to focus on exploring parents’ views in our enforcement of broadcasting standards relating to the protection of children."

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