Press release

Bailey Review of the Commercialisation and Sexualisation of Childhood: final report published

Report recommends clampdown on sexualised ‘wallpaper’ surrounding children.

  • Clampdown on sexualised ‘wallpaper’ surrounding children.
  • Music videos should get age ratings.
  • Sexual images on magazine and newspaper front pages should be covered up.
  • Retailers should sign up to a family friendly code of practice.

A six-month independent review into the commercialisation and sexualisation of childhood, which reports today, calls on businesses and media to play their part in ending the drift towards an increasingly sexualised ‘wallpaper’ that surrounds children.

Reg Bailey, Chief Executive of Mothers’ Union, who led the independent review, has listened to parents’ concerns about the barriers they face in bringing up their children. They are particularly unhappy with the increasingly sexualised culture surrounding their children, which they feel they have no control over. They singled out sexually explicit music videos, outdoor adverts that contain sexualised images, and the amount of sexual content in family programmes on TV.

Reg Bailey’s recommendations are based on parents’ concerns and are intended to support them, make sure their views are taken more seriously by businesses and broadcasters, and help children understand the potential dangers they face. They will put control back in the hands of families.

The recommendations include:

  • Providing parents with one single website to make it easier to complain about any programme, advert, product or service.
  • Putting age restrictions on music videos to prevent children buying sexually explicit videos and 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 it easier for parents to block adult and age-restricted material from the internet by giving every customer a choice at the point of purchase over whether they want adult content on their home internet, laptops or smart phones.
  • Retailers offering age-appropriate clothes for children - the retail industry should sign up to the British Retail Consortium’s new guidelines 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 in the regulation of pre-watershed TV, rather than viewers as a whole, about what is suitable for children to watch.
  • 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.

Reg Bailey said:

Society has become increasingly full of sexualised imagery. This has created a wallpaper to children’s lives. Parents feel there is no escape and no clear space where children can be children.

I want to put the power back in parents’ hands so they can better manage the pressures on their children and make it easier for them to bring up their children the way they want.

Parents need encouragement to feel they can change things and that their voices will be heard. Regulators, businesses and broadcasters should do more to connect with parents - it’s not enough for them to work out what is acceptable from what people complain about afterwards. I hope that they see that it’s good business if you look out for families. Then we can all help to make Britain a more family friendly place.

Children’s Minister Sarah Teather said:

I’m very grateful to Reg for his insightful and thorough review, and for recommending a set of practical measures to help parents protect their children in the increasingly sexual and commercial world we live in.

It is not government’s role to interfere in family life. But parents often tell me that they would like more support so that they can navigate the rapidly-changing technological and commercial world. Reg’s review shows the way for business and government to give them this support.

I know that Reg has encountered a lot of goodwill from the broadcast, retail and advertising industries throughout his review. I am looking forward to working together to implement his proposals.

Ed Vaizey, Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries, said:

We know that many parents are concerned that their children could be exposed to content that seems too adult, be it online, on TV, through adverts or in music videos. I welcome the collaborative way that regulators and industry have engaged with Reg Bailey. For our part, we are committed to consulting on whether age ratings on music videos would provide effective protection for children.

Many of the actions suggested in the report are for businesses and regulators rather than for the government. Reg Bailey is recommending that the government should monitor the implementation of his recommendations and do a stock-take in 18 months’ time. To make sure that good progress is made quickly, the prime minister and children’s minister will invite a wide range of businesses and regulators into Downing Street in October and ask them to report on steps they have taken to address the issues raised in this report.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) has today published new family-friendly guidelines which Mr Bailey welcomes as a clear example of how industry can respond positively and voluntarily to public feeling. He recommends all retailers should sign up to the guidelines.

Jane Bevis, Director of Public Affairs at the BRC, said:

This has been an important review in considering the needs of children and families in an increasingly complex world. We have been delighted to work closely with Reg and his team as they have examined some real and challenging issues and debunked a number of urban myths.

It has highlighted the excellent practice already in place in responsible retailers - and the need to share this more widely so that parents can be confident when shopping.

Our good practice guidelines on childrenswear, launched alongside Reg’s report today, aim to ensure that the highest standards are maintained across the sector.

Guy Parker, Chief Executive of the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), said:

The protection of children from harmful or inappropriate advertising is one of the Advertising Standards Authority’s top priorities and to do this we know we need to reflect the views of parents and young people in our work. 

We welcome Reg Bailey’s recommendations on advertising and we’re committed to making sure that parents have the confidence to raise their concerns and to know that they’ll be heard.

Chris Woolard, Group Director of Content at Ofcom, said:

Protection of children is one of Ofcom’s most important statutory duties and we therefore welcome Reg Bailey’s review of this significant area.

Ofcom recognises the critical importance of parents’ views about what children watch on TV. We will continue to focus on exploring parents’ views in our enforcement of broadcasting standards relating to the protection of children.

The Bailey review listened to the views of parents, children and young people through a range of ways including face-to-face surveys, a call for evidence and focus groups. The Office of the Children’s Commissioner for England also submitted the views of 552 children and young people, published in a report today.

Notes to editors

  1. The Bailey Review of Commercialisation and Sexualisation of Childhood - Letting Children be Children, was published on Monday 6 June 2011.

  2. Reg Bailey was asked to lead the independent review on 6 December 2010.

  3. Contributions to the review included:
    • 1000 parents completed an online call for evidence.
    • 1025 parents of five to 16-year-olds and 520 children and young people aged seven to 16 took part in a face-to-face survey.
    • 70 parents took part in qualitative research, including focus groups.
    • 552 children and young people took part in a survey by the Office of the Children’s Commissioner for England.
    • 120 organisations and businesses submitted written evidence.
    • Over 40 organisations and experts held individual meetings with Reg Bailey.
  4. Watch Reg Bailey talking about his review on the DfE YouTube channel

Reg Bailey talks about his review

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