THE SEX TRADE ►Prostitution ►Pornography ►Sex Trafficking TACKLING DEMAND RELATED ISSUES ►Rape ►Rape and War ►Sexual Denigration MEN SPEAKING OUT

UK: David Cameron orders review into sexualised products for children

Publish Date: 06 Dec 2010
Source: The Guardian
By: Patrick Wintour

Reg Bailey, chief executive of Mothers' Union, will conduct investigation into sexualisation of childhood

David Cameron has ordered an independent review into whether retailers and broadcasters should be subject to new restrictions preventing them selling sexualised products aimed at children.

Cameron took a strong position on the commercialisation of children as leader of the opposition. Some of his closest aides have been determined to see a clampdown on childhood advertising, but have faced opposition from some Liberal Democrats worried about censorship and freedom.

In a compromise, Sarah Teather, the Lib Dem schools minister, announced yesterday that she had asked Reg Bailey, the chief executive of the Mothers' Union Christian charity, to conduct a review on the sexualisation of childhood.

It will be the fifth government-led review into this subject since December 2008, including a review by Linda Papadopoulos, the child psychologist, in a report commissioned by Labour and published in February this year. That report called for an online "one-stop shop" to allow the public to voice its concerns regarding irresponsible marketing that sexualises children, with an onus on regulatory authorities to take action.

The new review will assess this proposal and also ask whether there should a new watchdog modelled on the Advertising Standards Authority to police a code of conduct on age-appropriate marketing, including the possibility of having sexually-explicit music videos shown only after the nine o'clock watershed. Products such as high-heeled shoes for five-year-olds, or Playboy-branded stationary sets are frequently cited as inappropriate.

The Conservatives had promised new rules banning companies found guilty of irresponsible marketing to children from bidding for government advertising contracts for three years.

Teather said: "Parents often find themselves under a tidal wave of pressure, buffeted by immense 'pester power' from their children for the latest product, craze or trend.

"I want this review to look at how we can equip parents to deal with the changing nature of marketing, advertising and other pressures that are aimed at their children."

She said: "We have heard from parents about the impact of going into shops and seeing things that are unsuitable.

"If you are a mum and dad, trying to take your children Christmas shopping – it's a pretty hellish experience at the best of times – but when you are seeing all these images all the time it increases the pressure on families."

She added: "By reviewing commercialisation and sexualisation of childhood we want to better understand not only how we can help parents resist these things, but also how we encourage all businesses to take their responsibilities as seriously as the best ones already do."

Bailey yesterday urged parents to send him products that they regarded as concerning, and said he would talk with businesses to find out what they regarded as practical.

He said: "It's about the tone and the style of the way things are marketed to children. When you are so bombarded by marketing and sexualised imagery, it almost becomes wallpaper."

Mumsnet, the social network forum for mothers, recently published a list of firms that backed its "let girls be girls" campaign designed to stop the sexualisation of pre-teens. The firms agreed "not to sell products which exploit, emphasise or play upon 'children's sexuality'".

The firms included BHS, Sainsbury's, Great Little Trading Co., Tesco, Next, No Added Sugar, Bread and Jam, Zara, Boots, Clarks, Debenhams, John Lewis, Marks & Spencer, Fat Face, George at Asda, Boden, House of Fraser, TK Maxx, Mothercare, Pumpkin Patch, Start-rite, Hush Puppies,, and Sweetling Bras.

In opposition, Cameron said he was shocked to discover beds with a "Lolita" branding were being marketed for six-year-olds.

Lolita is a novel by Vladimir Nabokov, later adapted into an Oscar-nominated movie, in which a middle-aged man becomes sexually obsessed with a precocious 12-year-old girl.

The Family and Parenting Institute welcomed the inquiry and said parents were concerned that young children were experiencing "too much too young".

Katherine Rake, the group's chief executive, said: "Mothers and fathers regularly tell us that they don't want to see childhood disappearing.

"Confronting this issue is vital if we are to move closer to a family-friendly society. In May Cameron said the Lolita beds and the padded bras and the rest of it, in the end most of those products were withdrawn because of parental pressure, so let's help the parents to put that pressure on.

"Some businesses are dumping a waste that is toxic on our children. Products and marketing that can warp their minds and their bodies and harm their future. That can take away their innocence, which I know most parents would agree is so precious and worth defending. Children are being pushed into grown-up territory well before their time.

"Toddlers become marketing targets before they can walk. Little kids are paid to plug products. Girls are encouraged to dress like women, wear lingerie and worry about what they look like."

Copyright © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010