Parents are despairing at moves by supermarkets and fashion chains to sell high heeled shoes for three-year-olds.
Recently Primark and Sports Direct were criticised for selling products which could sexualise young girls.
Now it has emerged that Asda, Tesco, Next and Gap Kids are selling high heels for girls. Reports say the craze was started by Tom Cruise’s daughter wearing heels from a young age.
Justine Roberts, from parenting forum Mumsnet, said some of the shoes were “more suited to a lap-dancing club than the feet of a young girl”.
Nicola Lamond of Netmums, another parenting forum, said she was “horrified” by the high heeled shoes.
The shoes have also come under fire from health experts who say such young feet are not suited to heels.
Asda is selling Disney Princess sandals with a 3cm heel, while Tesco is reportedly selling shoes with a two-inch heel.
The shops have attempted to defend the decision, with Asda saying they have received no complaints and Gap Kids commenting that their shoes had been tested to ensure safety.
A Next spokesman said: “Their popularity suggests many parents agree we’ve come up with a look that’s special without seeming inappropriately grown up.”
But Justine Roberts said: “The items in question are prematurely sexualising young children. We are saying to retailers, ‘Have a look at your range and ask yourselves if these items are appropriate.'”
She added: “Young girls always want to dress up and emulate adults, and that’s fine. But when the bulk of the range on offer is like this, then it is making our children grow up too fast.”
Nicola Lamond said: “I went shopping with my daughter and was horrified by how many shoes came with a high heel in sizes to fit girls as young as three. These shoes will be harder to walk in than flat shoes so I’d be worried my child would injure themselves.”
In February on the GMTV breakfast show, David Cameron said: “We all know as parents, I have got two young children and there will be many watching this programme, that you do your best as parents but there is a lot of pester power going on.
“What we are saying is that you can’t cut children off from the commercial world, of course you can’t, but we should be able to help parents more in terms of trying to make sure that our children get a childhood and that they are not subject to unnecessary and inappropriate commercialisation and sexualisation too young.”
Also in February the Home Office released a report by psychologist Dr Linda Papadopoulos, who warned that increasing exposure to “hyper-sexualised” images in the media was selling young people the idea that they must look “sexy” and “hot”.
She said this “drip drip” effect was causing many young people to grow up with “poor self-esteem, depression and eating disorders”.
“Unless sexualisation is accepted as harmful”, Dr Papadopoulos wrote in the report, “we will miss an important opportunity here: an opportunity to broaden young people’s beliefs about where their value lies”.