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Tackling commercialisation and sexualisation of childhood: Prime Minister welcomes progress but says more must be done

The Prime Minister welcomes progress on tackling commercialisation and sexualisation of childhood but says more must be done

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

The Prime Minister and Children’s Minister, Sarah Teather, will today host a summit at Downing Street to drive forward progress on tackling the commercialisation and sexualisation of childhood.

The summit follows a review in June by Reg Bailey, chief executive of the Mothers’ Union which made a series of recommendations to businesses, broadcasters and regulators. Today they updated the Prime Minister on the actions they have taken and discussed what more could be done to support parents in protecting their children from excessive commercialisation and sexualisation.

The Prime Minister said:

There is a growing tide of concern up and down the country among parents who, like me, are concerned about our children being exposed to inappropriate advertising and sexual imagery and growing up too early.

I welcome the progress being made, including the ParentPort website being launched today that will give parents a strong voice and a single hub to air their concerns about inappropriate products, adverts or services.

But we must do more, so today I call on businesses and industry to go further and in the new year I will again review progress because I am determined we are really making changes that support parents and protect our children.

In addition to the launch of ParentPort, a raft of new measures were announced today, including:

  • Stricter guidelines by the Advertising Standards Authority on sexual images in outdoor advertising, particularly near schools.
  • A voluntary ban by the outdoor advertising industry on advertisements near schools for lap-dancing clubs and similar adult services.
  • New guidelines preventing children aged 15 and under from being employed to act as brand ambassadors or in peer-to-peer marketing campaigns. The guidelines have been produced the Advertising Association’s Children’s Panel and have the support of companies including Procter & Gamble, Nintendo, Facebook, Microsoft and Unilever.
  • The commitment from the top four Internet Service Providers (BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin) that all customers will receive an active choice at the point of purchase over whether they want to block adult content on their home internet or laptops.
  • The first child protection app, produced by Vodafone, free for parents to download from the Android, Blackberry and Symbian app stores to let parents choose the times of day their children can use their phones, and whether they allow their children access to the internet, via mobile or wifi.

Children’s Minister, Sarah Teather, said:

Many organisations are making a real effort to implement Reg Bailey’s recommendations but we want to see action continue over the next year.

Parents say they struggle to protect their children from sexual images. They are also under pressure to buy the latest must-have items for their children. Parenting is hard enough so we should support them and companies should listen to them.

I welcome the tighter rules on advertising, and extra help for parents to control what their children view on the internet. These actions are important steps in the right direction.

It will be interesting to see what parents say on the ParentPort website. This will be an important tool in getting companies and regulators to alter their view of what is acceptable for children. That way we can all work together to make our society a bit more family friendly.

Reg Bailey said:

I believe that events this summer underline the need for all of us to work towards creating a society where we are each valued for who we are rather than what we own. We need to get children to see themselves as rounded human beings, rather than just as consumers.

So I am pleased that businesses and regulators are not paying lip service to my recommendations but are genuinely trying to get it right.

However, the things that have been tackled so far are relatively easy to implement. Some areas of the review clearly provide a greater challenge. I don’t want the more complex technical issues facing businesses to get in the way of them making changes.

Over the next year I will be working with voluntary groups to hold organisations and government to account. The outcome we are seeking is far too important to slip off the agenda.

Ahead of today’s summit Ofcom issued new guidance on pre-watershed TV content to ensure it is always family-friendly and suitable for children. The British Retail Consortium produced a code of practice on retailing children’s clothing in June at the time of the Bailey report. Members who have signed up to the guidelines include Argos, Debenhams, George at Asda, John Lewis, M&Co, M&S, Next, Peacocks, Pumpkin Patch, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and TK Maxx.

Notes to editors

  1. Reg Bailey published his final report in June this year.

  2. UK media regulators joined forces today to launch ParentPort, a new website to help parents keep their children safe from inappropriate programmes, adverts, products and services.

  3. The Advertising Standards Authority has issued a warning statement on the use of sexual images in advertising.

  4. Organisations at the Summit this afternoon will include representatives from Girlguiding UK, Netmums, Advertising Standards Authority, Vodafone, TalkTalk, Family and Parenting Institute, Advertising Association, Mumsnet, Ofcom, MTV, Advertising Association, Outdoor Media Centre, British Retail Consortium, Primark, Children’s Charities Coalition on Internet Safety, and BT.

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Published 26 April 2012