Nearly half of parents are unhappy with programmes or adverts on TV before the 9pm watershed.
A survey of over 1000 parents of all backgrounds has revealed that 88 per cent think that children are under pressure to grow up too quickly.
The survey forms part of the independent Bailey Review of Commercialisation and Sexualisation of Childhood, commissioned by the Department to unravel and tackle issues around the premature sexualisation and commercialisation of children.
Celebrity culture, adult style clothes and music videos are all guilty in parents’ eyes of encouraging children to act older than they are.
The survey aimed to find out what parents think and what help they need to manage the pressures on their children. The Bailey Review has also been listening to parents through focus groups and a call for evidence, which received an overwhelming response from parents.
Specific areas of concern are emerging from parents. These include:
Reg Bailey, Chief Executive of the Mothers Union, is leading an independent review into the Commercialisation and Sexualisation of Childhood.
Parents are telling us in no uncertain terms that they are worried about the pressures on children to grow up too quickly. It is clear that their concerns have not been created out of a moral panic but from their everyday experience. They are struggling against the slow creep of an increasingly commercial and sexualised culture and behaviour, which they say prevents them from parenting the way they want.
Parents are disappointed that some of the existing regulation and self-regulation is starting to let them down. They feel that traditionally trusted controls like the TV ‘watershed’ have become less rigorous and the lines have become more blurred.
They are also uneasy about marketing to children through new digital media. Almost all the parents that responded did not think it was appropriate for companies to send phone and text adverts to children. They are particularly frustrated when sophisticated marketing techniques are used which they are unaware of and therefore unable to manage the pressure it creates.
It is very interesting to look at why parents are not complaining directly to companies and regulators about this in the numbers we might expect given the strength of feeling. In the busy hectic schedule of families’ lives it is understandable that many parents feel it would be too difficult and time consuming. But a large number of parents told us they are worried that they will be seen as prudish or out of touch if they complain. They have little faith in regulators or businesses taking their concerns seriously.
The increasingly commercialised and sexualised world we live in can be a challenging environment for adults, but even more so for children. So far I have encountered two very different approaches in dealing with this. Either we can try and keep children wholly innocent until they are adults, which I believe is unrealistic and unhealthy. Or we accept the world the way it is and simply give children the tools to navigate their way through it better. Neither approach works in my view.
For us to let children be children, we need to let parents be parents. That means giving parents the support and encouragement they need to help their children understand and resist the harms they face. But it also means putting brakes on ever greater commercialisation and sexualisation facing children in modern society. Only then can we look to create a truly family friendly society that protects children.
Findings from the survey show that:
Other emerging findings from the call for evidence and focus groups show:
The survey results, focus groups responses and findings from the call for evidence will be published in the final report of the Bailey Review in May.
Public Communication Unit
for general enquiries
Telephone: 0370 000 2288
for media enquiries
Telephone: 020 7925 6789