Psychologist’s report puts forward proposals to curb childhood sexualisation

The Government should launch a “one stop shop” for parents to complain about advertising that sexualises children, while potentially “offensive” outdoor images should be pre-vetted by local authorities, according to a leading psychologist.

In a Government-commissioned report into the “sexualisation of young people”, Dr Linda Papadopoulos (pictured right in related images) says action needs to be taken to address the “dramatic increase in the use of sexualised imagery in advertising”.

Dr Papadopoulous recommends that the Government should set up an online service “to voice their concerns” about campaigns with the “onus on regulatory authorities to take action”. She adds the comments should then be used to “inform future Government policy”.

Outdoor ads should be vetted by local authorities, the report says, “to ensure images and messages are not offensive on the grounds of gender”.

The report was commissioned last year by the then Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, as part of a Home Office strategy tackling violence against women and girls.

The Conservative Party welcomed the report but added Labour had not done enough to “to take on irresponsible practices”.

A Tory spokeswoman says it will “crack down on irresponsible marketing practices” and products targeted at children by “banning the most manipulative marketing techniques aimed at young people” and “strengthening the regulatory framework”.

Conservative leader David Cameron also recently called for a site for parents to complain about “offensive marketing tactics used by companies”, adding that agencies that produce the campaigns should not be allowed to bid for Government contracts for three years.

Ian Twinn, director of public affairs at ISBA, says all parties – Government, parents, local authorities and the advertising and marketing industries – have a part to play in addressing the problem.

Dr Papadopoulous also added her support to the plans to extend the Advertising Standards Authority’s remit to include marketing communications on commercial websites.

A spokesman for the ASA says it shares the reports’ concern that children should be protected from inappropriate sexualised material and welcomes its backing of plans to extend the watchdog’s remit.

“Industry work to extend the regulatory remit is at an advanced stage and we look forward to playing our part when this is finalised,” he says.

Other recommendations include forcing “Lads’ mags” such as Nuts and Loaded to be marked as “recommended for sale only to persons aged 15 and over”.

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