“Sexualized imagery is now a mainstream part of children’s lives, forming the ‘wallpaper’ or backdrop to their everyday activities whether in public places through billboards and shop windows, or in the home through television and other media,” concluded a report commissioned by the UK government on the pressures children face to grow up too quickly.
The report by chief executive of the Mothers’ Union Reg Bailey published on June 6, titled “Letting Children Be Children: The Report of an Independent Review of the Commercialization and Sexualization of Childhood,” shows the great difficulties British parents face in protecting their children’s minds.
“There is evidence that our society is becoming more sexualized, and the increasing number of media channels through which we receive these messages mean that we are under ever increasing exposure to sexualized content and imagery,” it states. “Sadly, some parent contributors even felt that there is ‘no escape’ and, for children, no ‘clear space’ where they can simply be themselves.”
It continues: “[T]he nature of this imagery is becoming increasingly explicit—commentators have referred to the ‘pornification’ of society—with the blurring of boundaries between pornography and the mainstream.”
The report states that many parents feel “powerless” to defend their children from smut.
Magazines and newspapers with lewd front covers, easily within view of children, were one of the parents’ concerns. Sexual images in billboards and posters—especially perfume and lingerie ads—were another. “Unlike advertisements on television or radio, there is no option to ‘switch off’ on-street advertisements—there is no choice but to be exposed to them on, for example, billboards, bus shelters and public transport,” states the report.
Parents were also concerned about “sexual material in family-viewing programs on television.” In Britain, tv stations are not allowed to show adult material before the “watershed” hour of 9 p.m. The report found that 41 percent of parents said they saw material they felt was inappropriate for children because of its sexual content on ads of programs shown before 9 p.m. Music videos were especially bad, the report said.
In fact, many parents brought up the influence that music has. “Some songs my 13-year-old sings back are shocking,” one parent said. “With music videos … I have a battle on my hands with raising my son when it comes to respecting women and not to see them as sexual objects. He seems obsessed with how they look as opposed to their talents or abilities, and this causes me concern,” said another.
The Internet was another major concern. Only 37 percent of parents whose children use the Internet at home have any type of software or controls preventing their children from accessing inappropriate material. Only 34 percent of parents of 12-to-15-year-olds regularly check what their child is doing online.
The report also raises parents’ concerns about the sexualization of children’s clothes, toys and games.
The report did make several suggestions that, if followed, would help parents. For example, it recommended rating music videos in the same way movies are rated, and making it easier for parents to complain about inappropriate ads and tv shows. However, the report failed to get to the cause of the problem.
The report states that “it is far from clear how” we arrived at this “increasingly sexual and sexualized culture.”
But the fact is that society is under attack—there is a hidden influence pushing this material at your children. This report highlights just how successful that attack has been.
You can fight back, however. For more information on the agenda behind this sexualization of young people, read our September 2009 Trumpet cover article, “The War Against Family.” ▪