A major report into child sexualisation and commercialisation will be released this month with early results showing that parents are concerned children are being forced to grow up too quickly.
The Government-backed review was launched in December amidst concerns about products such as padded bikinis for seven-year-olds and overtly sexual adverts.
In a poll for the review, parents expressed concern over inappropriate clothes for youngsters, increasingly sexualised content on music videos and “too adult” themes in some soap operas.
Parents also expressed anxiety over children behaving in an overtly sexual manner. Over 80 per cent of parents thought children were under pressure to grow up too quickly.
Reg Bailey, who is leading the review and is Chief Executive of the Mothers’ Union, said: “Parents are telling us in no uncertain terms that they are worried about the pressures on children to grow up too quickly.”
He added that parents were “struggling against the slow creep of an increasingly commercial and sexualised culture and behaviour” and feel “traditionally trusted controls” like the 9pm TV watershed “have become less rigorous and the lines have become more blurred”.
Mr Bailey continued: “we need to let parents be parents”. He said: “That means giving parents the support and encouragement they need to help their children understand and resist the harms they face.
“But it also means putting brakes on ever greater commercialisation and sexualisation facing children in modern society. Only then can we look to create a truly family friendly society that protects children.”
Norman Wells of the Family Education Trust said children’s exposure to sexual language and images from an early age is having a desensitising effect.
As a result of this, Mr Wells said, “they are more vulnerable to pressures to engage in casual sexual relationships when they grow older, with all the attendant risks”.
In February 2010 David Cameron warned: “More and more today, sexual-provocative images are invading public space – space shared by children.
“In the Tube station, at the bus stop, on the billboard – there’s the creeping sense that we’re sleepwalking to a place where ‘porn is the norm’.”
Later in 2010 Primark was forced to withdraw padded bikinis for seven-year-olds after critics condemned the store for fuelling child sexualisation.
And in August 2010 top music producer Mike Stock said young children are being sexualised by provocative music videos which resemble soft pornography.