Report on sexualisation of childhood published

A six-month independent review into the commercialisation and sexualisation of childhood, calls on businesses, parents and the media to play their part in promoting a family friendly culture.

A six-month independent review into the commercialisation and sexualisation of childhood, calls on businesses, parents and the media to play their part in promoting a family friendly culture.

Reg Bailey, Chief Executive of Mothers’ Union, who led the independent review, says the report is a response to parents’ concerns about sexually explicit music videos, outdoor adverts that contain sexualised images, and the amount of sexual content in family programmes on TV.

The recommendations 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 report says 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.

Reg Bailey 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. I hope that they see that it’s good business if you look out for families. Then we can all help to make Britain a more family friendly place.”

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. Reg’s review shows the way for business and Government to give them this support."

Many of the actions suggested in the report are for businesses and regulators rather than for the Government. Bailey recommends that the Government should monitor the implementation of his recommendations and do a stock-take in 18 months’ time. The Prime Minister and Children’s Minister will invite a wide range of businesses and regulators into Downing Street in October and ask them to report on steps they have taken to address the issues raised in this report.

To coincide with the publication of the report the British Retail Consortium (BRC) has today published new family-friendly guidelines. Jane Bevis, Director of Public Affairs at the BRC, said: “This has been an important review in considering the needs of children and families in an increasingly complex world. We have been delighted to work closely with Reg and his team as they have examined some real and challenging issues and debunked a number of urban myths.”

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