I am writing to thank you for all the work you have put in to delivering your review into the commercialisation and sexualisation of childhood. It is a tremendous report and a huge contribution to an issue that concerns so many parents up and down the country and that has such a damaging impact on our children. I am also grateful to Sarah Teather, Minister of State for Children and Families, for commissioning this report.
In dealing with this problem, I very much agree with the central approach you set out. As you say, we should not to try and wrap children up in cotton wool or simply throw our hands up and accept the world as it is. Instead, we should look to put “the brakes on an unthinking drift towards ever greater commercialisation and sexualisation”.
Of course, we will look carefully and consider our response to all your recommendations. But I note that many of the actions you suggest are for business and regulators to follow rather than for government. I support this emphasis, as it consistent with this government’s overall approach and my long held belief that the leading force for progress should be social responsibility, not state control.
I particularly welcome those recommendations to:
- make public space more family-friendly by “reducing the amount of on-street advertising containing sexualised imagery in locations where children are likely to see it.”
- ensure children are protected when they watch television, are on the internet or use their mobile phones by “making it easier for parents to block adult and age-restricted material” across all media.
- stop the process where companies pay children to publicise and promote products in schools or on social networking sites by banning “the employment of children as brand ambassadors and in peer-to-peer marketing.”
The social response is not something we can leave to chance. We need to make sure we hold businesses and regulators to account in a transparent way. So I would like you to join me and Sarah Teather at a meeting at Downing Street in October, to which we will also invite retailers, advertisers, broadcasters, magazine editors, video games manufacturers, music producers, internet and phone companies, regulators and all other interested parties. We can use this opportunity to ask them to report to us the steps they have taken to address the issues you raise in your report and act on your specific recommendations. Sarah Teather will be keeping me closely informed of progress in the meantime, and has arranged an initial meeting later this month with all those to whom your recommendations are addressed.
By the time this meeting happens, I also want progress to have been made on one thing in particular. In your report, you stress the importance of there being a single, user-friendly website that sets out “simply and clearly what parents can do if they feel a programme, advertisement, product or service is inappropriate for their children.” This not only seems entirely sensible, but also relatively easy and simple to introduce; I see no reason why the website cannot be up and running in good time to get feedback from parents for our October meeting. I would be grateful for your continued efforts to help make this happen in the coming months, and Ministers stand ready to provide support as needed.
Thank you once again for your work and this report. It is a giant step forward for protecting childhood and making Britain more family-friendly. And I look forward to working with you in the future to make even more progress.