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I fear it may be too late to prevent the 'pornification' of our children

So, you're out at the newsagents picking up your daily paper and maybe a few bits and pieces and you spot your youngest wandering around the magazine section. He's looking at the latest Thomas the Tank Engine magazine, or perhaps the new Batman comic, you think.

Would you be horrified to find him leafing through Nuts or Zoo instead? What would you say if he started touching the nippled wonders of the Page 3 girl? Except, of course, it's not just Page 3 -- it's all the other pages too.

With such magazines no longer relegated to the top shelf, either metaphorically or literally, it's entirely possible that your eight-year-old could be viewing highly unsuitable material, perfectly legally.

You can't complain to the shop assistant, nor is there any law you can invoke. You just have to put it away and tell him it's unsuitable. And if there was ever a word guaranteed to make him want more, it's that one.

Well, a new report has said that the early sexualisation of children has reached crisis point. It recommends all sorts of sensible, but probably impossible things, like the return of the top shelf, an age warning on magazines and sexy music videos to be banned until after the television watershed of 9pm.

It even wants to curtail overly sexual outdoor billboards -- like the 'Hello Boys' one that hurtled many a male driver into a tree and Eva Herzigova to eternal fame.

Is it naive to think we've gone so far that we are past the point of return?

The "pornification" of everything from advertising to magazines to television ads can make us think sometimes that there's nothing else on people's minds.

Add to that the 'crossover' television programmes like Glee -- aimed at adults and children. Fun, but provocatively sexy too. The messages are about looking hot, for the girls and macho for the boys. My daughter got the land of her life when I showed her the simple (but incredibly powerful) effects of airbrushing.

My own byline picture (see -- that one right there) has had a few spots removed and my hair tamed from the wild mess it normally is. Add in good lighting and makeup and I guarantee you probably wouldn't recognise me in the supermarket.

Fashion models get routinely airbrushed to one extent or another. It's important that kids -- particularly girls -- know the extent to which advertisers will go in order to portray the 'perfect' woman. She only exists, of course, in the minds of marketing companies, but it's safe to assume that many vulnerable teens wouldn't know that. And what about the insistence of Disney or Mattel in giving us female characters with impossible figures? If Barbie was actually translated into a real woman she'd be so deformed as to put anybody off.

Here's an exercise for any of you with dolls at home: Put your own hand up to your face -- see it's about the same size.

Now put Barbie's up to hers - it barely covers her nose. Same with the feet -- permanently in an unhealthy tippy toe position.

Go into some of our best known clothing stores and you'll find padded bras for eight year-olds so they can emulate their favourite tight T-shirted actress or singer.

It's difficult to see, with the best will in the world, how we can back-track on this sort of 'progress'.

An increasingly 24/7 digital world and constant bombardment of advertising messages and it's no wonder our children are exposed to much more than we ever were.

Where can it end? Goodness knows, but it breaks my heart every time to see a small child done up to the nines (like Katie Price did with her daughter recently) and trying hard to look like a busty, heavily made up glamour model. Ridiculous, yes, but inevitable, I fear, unless we're very careful.


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