Friday 9 December 2016

Parents win the battle against 'pornification' of young children

Patricia Casey

Published 13/06/2011 | 05:00

Around this time last year, Linda Papadopoulos, a psychologist based in London, was commissioned by the UK's Home Office to prepare a report which she called 'Sexualisation of Young People'.

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She wrote about the "pornification of society" and identified the pressure that young people of both sexes were under to emulate the extreme stereotypes of both genders.

She identified both sexes as feeling pressured to present themselves on social networking sites as available and sexually active despite their tender years.

She also described several websites, such as Missbimbo.com and Nuts.co.uk, where curvaciousness, machismo and body size reigned supreme.

She bemoaned the fact that for many girls lap dancing was a profession to be aspired to and so-called glamour modelling was idealised.

Her findings were one of a series of international reports that had been previously carried out in the United States by the American Psychological Association in 2009 and in Australia in 2008.

Fast forward 15 months and we have what, in managerial and marketing parlance, might be called the stakeholders' report.

In this instance, they are mothers belonging to an international Christian organisation known as the Mother's Union.

In December 2010, Sarah Teather, the UK Children's Minister, commissioned the organisation's chief executive Reg Bailey to carry out the review by building on previous reports and more specifically by making recommendations for dealing with the problems.

Resulting from this, David Cameron, the British Prime Minister, and definitely a stakeholder with three young children, has responded.

What he is promising sounds impressive -- strict new rules governing sales, marketing and viewing habits that will impinge upon minors.

It's obvious that Cameron sees the reality. The reality is that if girls believe that sexual allure is the centre of their relationships, this image will be easily absorbed and incorporated into their psyche at a crucial time in their youthful development. Many will be propelled into premature sexual activity.

In addition, valuing beauty and attractiveness as the main goal for them carries the risk of ignoring their other attributes such as intelligence, competence, thoughtfulness and so on.

Eating disorders may increase in a vain attempt to maintain a perceived notion of attractiveness.

For boys there is the problem of them incorporating images of masculinity that rely on physicality, muscularity and machismo into their images of manhood while at the same time falling short on listening, gentleness and protectiveness.

For Cameron, it would appear that he sees a simple answer that rests with the greatest good for the greatest number of people.

If some action is harmful to a large number of vulnerable people, and in this instance their vulnerability is because of age, then he clearly believes he has a duty to act.

He is not afraid of trying to turn back the clock on elements of girls' laddishness and male aggression that have visibly become part of our society.

His plans are modest enough and perhaps they are more likely to touch a nerve with people for that.

Indeed, they are based on the Mother's Union recommendations and include an end to the sale of inappropriate clothing for children, such as padded bras or T-shirts sporting provocative slogans such as 'porn star'.

Magazines and newspapers with sexualised images on the front page will have to be kept away from the prying eyes of children and placed on top shelves in shops.

Parents will be able to limit the content of adult material on their home internet, laptops or smart phones. There will also be strict adherence to the 9pm watershed on television and radio.

For once, a Prime Minister is listening to parents' concerns and responding with positive measures. Roll on the day when a leader here responds to us like that.

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