New recommendations for dealing with sexualisation of children in UK
Anyone who has ever had the dubious pleasure of supervising a children’s disco will know that there are certain constants to be relied upon; copious amounts of spilt fizzy drinks, a sense of your own impending old age… and a bunch of little girls in the corner gyrating like Beyonce in heels and short skirts.
It doesn’t stop there though; from manicures for toddlers to the violent video games that are often the talk of the playground, it’s easy to feel that too many children are growing up too fast.
The sexualisation of children has become something of a buzz phrase lately, with even the UK government keen to get in on the act.
Yesterday it released an update on the status of recommendations from the Bailey report, Letting Children be Children, an independent review of the problem led by Reg Bailey, chief executive of the Mothers’ Union in the UK.
The report was first published last autumn when it identified issues with the sexualised ‘wallpaper’ of children’s lives, as well as children’s status as mini-consumers.
So what progress has been made so far? For parents struggling to negotiate the path between protecting their children and equipping them with the necessary skills to make their own decisions there is the Parentport website where inappropriate content can be reported and opinions shared.
And new guidelines from the Advertising Standards Authority aim to curb the display of sexual content within outdoor advertising as well cautioning against the use of children under the age of fifteen as brand ambassadors.
Crucially, these initiatives have the support of key companies such as Nintendo, Facebook and Unilever.
Of course, the recommendations are ongoing and the update focuses on video games and music as a particular area of concern.
New measures include consultations on whether the current age rating system should be extended to cover more music DVDs and Blu-ray discs – most of which are currently exempt from the Video Recordings Acts.
Additionally, clear warnings on explicit videos shown online are to be encouraged. By the end of the year, YouTube will provide the music industry with the ability to label their videos “explicit,” allowing parents to veto unsuitable content more easily.
And children’s minister Sarah Tether is keen to emphasise the importance of holding businesses and the media to account:
“Being a parent is a tough job at the best of times. The onus has to be on industry to stop undermining parents trying to bring up their own children, the way they want.
“We’re making progress but we’re keeping the pressure up on businesses so they listen and act on parents’ concerns. It’s not acceptable for industry to simply ignore families’ worries.”
With self-esteem and gender identity questions still major issues for many young people, it seems that the sexualisation of children is not a problem likely to go away any time soon.
And perhaps truly horrific stories like that of the Rochdale grooming circle would be less common were we not training young women to see themselves as sexual objects, rather than agents in charge of their own desires.
“He made me feel pretty,” said one victim in this most recent case, of the first man to rape her; a telling indictment of the messages of value and self-worth with which children are bombarded.