Child sexualisation complaints website to be set up.

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“Parents will be able to highlight examples of child sexualisation on a new website, the prime minister has said.

The measure is among the proposals in a review on the commercialisation and sexualisation of children, from Mothers’ Union boss Reg Bailey.

David Cameron also backed Mr Bailey’s calls to make blocking web and mobile-phone pornography easier.

And he plans to hold a summit on progress on the issues, in October.

Retailers, advertisers, broadcasters, magazine editors, video games and music industry chiefs and regulators will be summoned to the event.

Under the changes proposed by Mr Bailey’s review, steamy pop videos would be restricted to older teenagers and later television slots and magazines featuring sexualised images covered up on shelves.

‘Stricter code’

And all new home internet services, laptops or mobile phones would have the option to ban adult material.

Parents would also be given more say in the television watershed guidelines.

The review coincides with stricter “good practice” guidance for shops selling children’s clothing.

Mr Cameron said the report was a “giant step forward for protecting childhood and making Britain more family friendly”.

“As you say, we should not try and wrap children up in cotton wool or simply throw our hands up and accept the world as it is.

“Instead, we should look to put ‘the brakes on an unthinking drift towards ever greater commercialisation and sexualisation’.”

Mr Cameron said many of the recommendations were for business and regulators to follow up, which was “consistent” with his government’s approach.

He added the plan for a single, user-friendly website that “sets out simply and clearly what parents can do if they feel a programme, advertisement, product or service is inappropriate for their children” would be easy to implement.

Mr Bailey describes the plethora of explicit adverts, videos and television programmes as a “wallpaper of sexual images that surround children”.

He says parents are worried about “the increasingly sexualised culture we live in”.

Lace lingerie

He says they need more support to protect their children and “help them deal with the pressure this brings”.

“Start Quote

It is not government’s role to interfere in family life, but parents often tell me that they would like more support”

End Quote Sarah Teather Children’s Minister

Mr Bailey said parents did not want more legislation, they just wanted their jobs as parents to be made slightly easier.

He told the BBC: “What they really feel is they want to have the responsibility of being parents left to them but also the barriers that sometimes make parenting difficult taken away from them.”

Controversial TV such as the 2010 X Factor final, which raised eyebrows with its raunchy performances from Rihanna and Christina Aguilera, complied with the broadcasting code, he pointed out.

The problem therefore lay with the code itself, he suggested.

In response to demands for restrictions on inappropriate children’s clothing – including lace lingerie and push-up bras – the British Retail Consortium launched stricter guidelines [PDF 2.9MB].

The British Retail Consortium’s director of public affairs, Jane Bevis, said the guidelines provided “extra reassurance for parents that these companies are just as concerned as they are about what their children wear”.

Nine stores – Asda, Debenhams, Argos, John Lewis, Next, Marks & Spencer, Peacocks, Sainsbury’s and Tesco – have signed up, with others being urged to participate.

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.”

Parent responsibility

Culture minister Ed Vaizey said: “We know that many parents are concerned that their children could be exposed to content that seems too adult, be it online, on TV, through adverts or in music videos.

“I welcome the collaborative way that regulators and industry have engaged with Reg Bailey.

“For our part, we are committed to consulting on whether age ratings on music videos would provide effective protection for children.”

England’s children’s commissioner Maggie Atkinson also welcomed the report.

She said children understood the influence of commercialisation and “recognised they were under pressure to own material goods”.

Director of the children’s charity Kidscape, Claude Knights, said that parents also needed to take some responsibility.

“Why are these items being produced? Why are parents buying? A lot of it, really, is about education,” he said.

David Thorp, director of research and information, The Chartered Institute of Marketing said: “An increased industry-parental dialogue as recommended in the review will give parents a positive increase in control and, in turn, the industry an invaluable insight to listen and respond in a measured way.”


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