CHILDREN in the UK are exposed to too much sex and violence on television before the watershed, a new report from the Mothers’ Union (MU), Bye Buy Children, has suggested.
The charity used ComRes to survey 1000 parents, and found that 67 per cent of those with children under 18 thought that unsuitable content was being broadcast before the 9 p.m. watershed.
Eighty per cent of the parents thought that sexualised and violent computer games and films were too easily available to young people, and that TV, the internet, and music had made children more sexually aware at a younger age.
The report states that the market for children’s goods is worth an estimated £99 billion in the UK; £350 million is spent each year to persuade children to become consumers.
Marketing and advertising agencies now see children as mini-consumers, with enormous “pester power” potential to access their parents’ wallets.
Controversy over products aimed at young girls, such as padded bras and pole-dancing kits, have led to the withdrawal of some items by shops.
One of the most worrying developments, the MU says, is “peer-to-peer marketing”, where children are recruited by marketing campaigns on the internet, which prey upon their inexperience and incredulity. Children are encouraged to pass email addresses of friends to advertisers and promote products to other children.
Those parents surveyed felt that they had less control over their chil-dren on social-networking sites, which are frequently used for peer-to-peer marketing, than on television.
The chief executive of the MU, Reg Bailey, said: “We are most concerned about the inappropriate sexualisation of children and the insidious way it has happened under the noses of parents.”
The MU report, published this week, marks the start of a new campaign to empower parents to look at their shopping habits and to hold the Government to account on its pledges to address the commercialisation and sexualisation of children.
The Prime Minister — who has three children — has spoken frequently on the issue. Mr Cameron has said that the growth in marketing and advertising to children is “not good for families and not good for society”.
The MU has devised a “Bye Buy Test” for parents when out shopping, which asks four questions: Why do I want to buy this? How often will I use it? Can I afford it? What will happen if I don’t buy it?
Mr Bailey said: “We want to give parents more confidence, as well as encourage advertisers to be responsible. We are not calling for any new legislation, but we want the current codes of practice enforced.
“We don’t want to sentimentalise childhood — we’ve all been subject to peer pressure — but it’s the sheer volume of it today that is concern-ing. There is more and more pressure on children to assess themselves, and it is diminishing the sense of belonging and meaning in their lives. Our society is just not doing the best it can for its children.”