Parents fear media and marketing is making children too sexually aware

A new report from Mothers’ Union has laid bare the concerns of many parents in the UK over the sexualisation of their children by mass marketing and the media.

The report cites results of a ComRes poll, which found that some 80 per cent of parents feel media and marketing with sexualised content was too easily accessible by children and that it was making them sexually aware at too young an age.

Seventy-one per cent of the 1,000 parents polled by ComRes for the organisation agreed that the media was encouraging children to act older than they wanted to, while 67 per cent said they believed inappropriate content was being shown on TV before the 9pm watershed.

Speaking at the launch of the Bye Buy Childhood report yesterday, Mothers’ Union President Rosemary Kempsell said she was concerned by the increasing levels of marketing being aimed at children.

“Brands deliberately encourage a culture of ‘pester power’ or use manipulative techniques such as recruiting young people as conduits for peer-to-peer marketing,” she said.

“This is having a far-reaching effect on children’s values, and their family life. Marketers play on the need that children have to fit in with their friends, to belong.

“We believe exploiting children for profit is wrong.”

Mothers’ Union urged retailers and the media not to sell or market goods of a sexualised nature to children under 16.

Fleur Dorrell, head of faith and policy at Mothers’ Union, said she wanted to see a cultural shift, with new codes of practice put in place to ensure that childhood was respected and not seen simply as a “marketing opportunity”.

She said: “Values of good parenting, of belonging and of choosing what brings happiness should not be sold to us as a product or a purchase.”