Reg BaileyReg Bailey, Chief Executive of the Mothers' Union, has carried out an independent review looking at the pressures on children to grow up too quickly.

The Government asked Reg to look into this issue because of the concerns of many parents who feel their children are under increasing pressure to become consumers, and that the world they live in is a more sexualised place than when their parents were growing up. Reg was asked to put forward recommendations to address the high levels of public concern, taking into account particularly the views of parents and the business community.

Letting Children Be Children: the Report of an Independent Review of the Commercialisation and Sexualisation of Childhood was published on 6 June 2011. Reg Bailey calls on businesses and broadcasters to play their part and protect children from the increasingly sexualised ‘wallpaper’ that surrounds them.  

Mr Bailey was particularly interested to hear views from parents and children, who are most affected. His recommendations are based on parents’ concerns and are intended to support them, to make sure their views are taken more seriously by businesses and broadcasters, and to put the control back in their hands. 

The recommendations include:

  • putting age restrictions on music videos to prevent children buying sexually explicit videos, and to guide broadcasters over when to show them
  • covering up sexualised images on the front pages of magazines and newspapers so they are not in easy sight of children
  • making every customer make a decision at the point of purchase over whether they want adult content on their home internet, laptops or smart phones, rather than receiving it automatically
  • retailers to offer more age-appropriate clothes for children and sign up to a code of practice which checks and challenges the design, buying, display and marketing of clothes, products and services for children
  • restricting outdoor adverts containing sexualised imagery where large numbers of children are likely to see them, for example near schools, nurseries and playgrounds
  • giving greater weight to the views of parents above the general public in regulating pre-watershed TV
  • providing parents with one single website to make it easier to complain about any programme, advert, product or service
  • banning the employment of children under 16 as brand ambassadors and in peer-to-peer marketing, and improving parents’ awareness of advertising and marketing techniques aimed at children.

The Government has welcomed Mr Bailey’s analysis and the thrust of all the recommendations he has made. The Written Ministerial Statement which sets out the Government’s response is available in the News section of this website. The Government will take stock of progress in 18 months’ time, as Mr Bailey recommends, and consider what further measures may need to be taken to achieve the recommended outcomes.

The Prime Minister has written to Reg Bailey to welcome the report and the approach it proposes as a giant step forward for protecting childhood and making Britain more family-friendly. He also said he would invite retailers, advertisers, broadcasters, magazine editors, video games and music industry chiefs and regulators to a summit in October to discuss progress. The Prime Minister's letter to Mr Bailey can be read on the Number Ten website.