LONDON, December 8, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The UK’s coalition government has ordered an independent review to ask whether retailers and broadcasters should be under new restrictions to curtail the sexualizing of children.
Sarah Teather, schools minister, announced yesterday that she had asked Reg Bailey, the chief executive of the Mothers’ Union, to conduct a “review” on the sexualization of childhood.
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.”
The planned review, to be conducted under the Department of Education, is being advertised as the fulfillment of the government’s promise to “protect children from excessive commercialisation and premature sexualisation to address parents’ concerns that children are being pressured into growing up too quickly.” It will propose a new watchdog, modeled on the Advertising Standards Authority, to police a code of conduct on age-appropriate marketing,
But even within Prime Minister David Cameron’s coalition, there is not peaceful agreement on the subject. While Conservatives campaigned on a pledge to curtail the sexual and commercial exploitation of children, their Liberal Democrat coalition partners are objecting to what they claim is censorship. Conservatives have promised a ban on “irresponsible” marketing to children using restrictions on bidding for government advertising contracts.
This is the fourth government review on this subject in two years. It comes at the same time as a report issued by the Mother’s Union on the commercialization of childhood titled, “Bye Buy Childhood.” The Mother’s Union campaign message, just in time for the opening of the Christmas shopping frenzy, is that children are being taught “that they are what they own, rather than being valued for who they are.”
“Using sex to sell to children is particularly objectionable and 80% of parents are concerned about the impact of sexualised content in television, films, magazines and the internet on their children,” the group, a 150 year-old Christian charity, says.
Product marketing in the UK is worth an annual £99 billion with £350 million spent on direct marketing to children. The Mother’s Union report decries the “manipulative techniques” that “exploit children’s natural credulity and use them as a conduit to the household purse.”
The consequent materialism that such marketing creates, the group says, affects children’s physical, mental and emotional wellbeing, their values, educational development and relationships with families and peers.
“The use of sexualised content to sell to children and the imposition of sexuality on children to market goods is particularly abhorrent.”
In the last government review on the equalization of British children by the media and merchandising, psychologist and author Linda Papadopoulos warned in February this year that children are being bombarded with sexual imagery in the media. She pointed to research showing a link between sexualized imagery and violence against women and girls.
“Both the images we consume and the way we consume them are lending credence to the idea that women are there to be used and that men are there to use them,” she said.