Press release

Review of commercialisation and sexualisation of children

Children's Minister announces an independent review into the commercialisation and premature sexualisation of children.

Children’s Minister Sarah Teather has today asked Mr Reg Bailey, Chief Executive of the Mothers’ Union, to carry out an independent review into the commercialisation and sexualisation of childhood, and report back with recommendations in May 2011.

The government made a commitment to take action to protect children from excessive commercialisation and premature sexualisation to address parents’ concerns that children are being pressured into growing up too quickly.

Taking in views of consumers, particularly parents and the business community, Mr Bailey has been asked to put forward recommendations, which are informed by evidence, that are challenging and will respond to the high levels of public concern.

The review will look at the following themes:

  • Risks of harm and barriers to parenting;
  • Principles - what is acceptable in this area and what is not;
  • Consumer voice;
  • Corporate social responsibility.

Children’s Minister Sarah Teather said:

Stable families are the bedrock of a strong, stable society and a family friendly society helps and supports parents to do the best job they can.

We’ve all read the headlines about high-street shops selling inappropriate products for children and many of us are worried about some of the marketing practices that are being used specifically to target children. By reviewing commercialisation and sexualisation of childhood we want to better understand not only how we can help parents resist these things, but also how we encourage all businesses to take their responsibilities as seriously as the best ones already do.

I’ve asked Reg Bailey, Chief Executive of the Mothers’ Union, to carry out this important review. He is well placed to bring together a wealth of industry expertise, empathy, and credibility with parents. I’ve asked Reg to build on previous reviews, but most importantly I want specific recommendations on what can be done across both of these broad areas, to tackle the issues parents and children and young people face.

Parents often find themselves under a tidal wave of pressure buffeted by immense pester power from their children for the latest product, craze or trend. I want this review to look at how we can equip parents to deal with the changing nature of marketing, advertising and other pressures that are aimed at their children; but I also want to see what more needs to be done to ensure that businesses play their part, too.

Review lead Reg Bailey said:

Parents today are faced with overwhelming choices and responsibility for their children. By agreeing to do this review I want to help find a way that allows children to be children and parents to feel properly equipped to deal with the pressures on their children as mini-consumers.

I look forward to working closely with businesses, retailers, marketing and advertising companies to really understand how we can build on the good work that is already going on and ensure that we deal with some of the things that parents and others are worried about.

This review will build on the previous reviews conducted by Professor David Buckingham on the impact of the commercial world on children’s wellbeing, by Dr Linda Papadopoulos on the sexualisation of young people, and by Professor Tanya Byron on child safety in a digital world. Reg Bailey has been asked to examine the evidence in these reviews and more recent research to produce robust and challenging recommendations for government to consider.

Notes to editors

  • The review is expected to report back in May 2011.

  • Agnes Nairn - Dr Agnes Nairn, Professor of Marketing and Co-Author of Consumer Kids said:

There remains no doubt that the commercial world has crept deeper into children’s lives - at home, at school and at play. The values of this world are profits, competition, persuasion and sales. Whilst it is vitally important to prepare children to live in the world of commerce as they grow up, we also need to be offering children another set of values.

I welcome this review and hope it will help shape a future where the mood music is changed from wanting, getting and having to thinking, sharing and being. This needs the involvement of everyone: business, regulators, parents, schools, communities and, of course, children and young people themselves.

  • Katherine Rake, Chief Executive of the Family and Parenting Institute said:

Parents tell us how worried they are that commercial pressures and early sexualisation are robbing children of the childhood they deserve and that they feel powerless to do anything about it. I am sure that parents up and down the country will warmly welcome the fact that the Government is taking these concerns seriously and will look to the review to be robust and challenging in its recommendations about how creeping commercialisation and sexualisation of children can be addressed.

  • Jane Bevis, Director of Public Affairs at The British Retail Consortium said:

As responsible retailers the British Retail Consortium’s members work hard to ensure that all products designed for children are appropriate for the age group concerned. In these days of celebrity style-setting many parents feel pressured by ‘pester power’ and so we welcome the opportunity this review offers to work with parent and community groups, the government and other business sectors to develop a sensible and pragmatic approach to ensuring our children can enjoy their childhood and families can enjoy the benefits of competitive modern retailing.

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